Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The End of Roaming?

Our annual Christmas road trip crossing 4 states (CO, NM, OK, TX) is always a study in phone roaming behavior. In previous years we would access several roaming carriers and experience how they perform in coverage and completing calls. This year our Verizon Wireless phone did not roam at all over the entire 800 mile distance. With their acquisition of most of Alltel, Verizon makes another step toward seamless coast-to-coast coverage.

In previous years, Verizon did not roam exclusively on Alltel. There were 4 or 5 roaming partners to enjoy. Now zero. This is an indication of just how far Verizon has come through acquisions and expansion. The fact that there have been few roaming changes among our other phones also shows how far some of the other carriers still need to go. And it's a little unsettling to find that our GSM phones were roaming primarily on Alltel's old GSM network which, where we were, is now controlled by Verizon Wireless. The FCC requires Verizon to maintain those GSM sites for roamers, but not forever.

This may be unpleasant news for our partners who maintain the Roaming Zone web site, but the idea of "roaming" is slipping out of the cellular glossary. Like kids today who have never experienced the joy of playing a 45 rpm record, and their even younger counterparts who have no need to even handle a CD, cellular roaming is passing into history. For years, phones haven't told us they're Roaming, but instead that we're using "Extended Network," but even that is disappearing.

In the western US, the GSM carriers still need to roam extensively, but we may never know it since it's normally included service. If the screen doesn't say so, then it isn't happening, right?


Anonymous said...

I'm curious to know if you were able to use a Sprint phone and, if so, did you notice any difference in roaming behavior with the Sprint phone.

William said...

With At&t and T-Mobile expanding their 3G networks, im curious to see the future of "GSM" roaming in the U.S. As we know, At&t and T-Mobile use different bands for their 3G services, and 2G is going to be slowly but surely phased out in the future. Will smaller "GSM" carriers deploy 3G networks in the future compatible with At&t or T-Mobile's 3G bands? Or as Bill stated, is roaming slowly but surely fading into the sunset? Interesting developments may lie in the future.

Oz Andrews said...

Yes, my Sprint phone bounced around Verizon and Alltel SID's, but the only significant non-Sprint area was the NE corner of New Mexico and the Texas panhandle.