AT&T and T-Mobile Clash Over Roaming, T-Mobile Asks the FCC to Re-Examine the Rules

October 29, 2014 - Written By Melissa Bailey

Roaming rules seems to be an ongoing issue between T-Mobile and AT&T.  The latest news finds AT&T accusing T-Mobile of relying on roaming to provide the service instead of investing in its own wireless network for users.  It’s not the first time the two companies have been at odds with one another.  AT&T’s vice president of Federal Regulatory Affairs Joan Marsh has recently outed T-Mobile in a blog post that states that T-Mobile is trying to have the FCC lower the wireless data roaming rates so the company can provide coverage to its users using roaming.  Although, Marsh also wrote that T-Mobile currently owns spectrum that has not yet been deployed, which means the company is attempting to rely on roaming agreements to provide coverage instead of building its own network like other providers.

In areas throughout the Midwest, Mountain and some Eastern parts of the US T-Mobile has not built its own network.  Marsh notes that in this broad type of country T-Mobile has PCS and AWS spectrum that may be able to be used to provide broadband to customers.  However, the company has chosen to rely on roaming instead.  AT&T has built its own network throughout the US and in the areas mentioned above.  The company also built the network with the same higher frequency spectrum that T-Mobile holds and reasons that there is no reason T-Mobile could not do the same.

Last spring T-Mobile launched a campaign to have the FCC issue new guidance and enforcement criteria on data roaming agreements.  The campaign was designed to have the FCC reassess the data roaming order instated in 2011 that required wireless carriers to provide data roaming on “commercially reasonable” terms.  The FCC has been requested to issue benchmarks on the cost of roaming rates and to clarify that current roaming rates aren’t necessarily indicative of “commercially reasonable” roaming rates.  The Commission has also been called to clarify rules related to certain location at which carriers do not yet operate networks but have requested roaming.

Sprint and a number of other smaller carriers have partnered with T-Mobile in the hopes that the FCC will lower data roaming costs.  However, Verizon Wireless has joined AT&T in the argument that the FCC should give wireless carriers flexibility and allow them to set their own roaming rates.  While the FCC has indicated it will be using its powers to assist smaller carriers in the US market nothing has been decided yet.