Sprint Sides With T-Mobile Against Data Roaming Dispute With Verizon and AT&T

August 22, 2014 - Written By Cory McNutt

I said it before and I’ll say it again, “ROAMing” is a nasty four-letter word – the only person that wants to roam is a cowboy on a ranch.  When it comes to our wireless service, nobody wants to roam, and for the most part if you are on a large network like Verizon or AT&T, you will not see any roaming charges because their networks are so vast, they cover just about anywhere.  Smaller networks or ones that are not fully developed or expanded need to sign a roaming agreement of some sort with a carrier that has coverage in those areas not covered by their own.  The smaller company seeking the roaming agreement is at the mercy of the larger carrier – something that T-Mobile and Sprint are facing and complaining about.

This is not happening just in the U.S. – up in Canada the Big Three, Rogers, TELUS and Bell control the market and the many smaller wireless companies were at their mercy when it came to roaming charges…so much so that the Government had to step in and issue guidelines because it was prohibiting the competition.  In a May filing, T-Mobile called the roaming marketplace “dysfunctional” and has left carriers “stymied in their efforts to negotiate data roaming agreements on commercially reasonable terms.”  They added they were, “forced into commercially unreasonable agreements with AT&T, including a data roaming rate that is currently 150 percent higher than the average domestic rate that T-Mobile pays for data roaming across all other domestic data roaming partners.  AT&T has obtained this pricing power in part due to acquisitions that have left it as the only GSM roaming partner available to T-Mobile in many areas of the country.”

AT&T called T-Mobile’s petition “a self-serving attempt to convince the Commission to intervene in a well-functioning marketplace to force wholesale data roaming rates to levels that would allow T-Mobile to substitute roaming for broadband investment.”  So in other words, T-Mobile doesn’t want to spend their own money to build their own infrastructure, but would rather use AT&T’s network instead, at a lower price.  Verizon, of course, agrees with AT&T and said that “by tethering all data roaming rates to benchmark rates, T-Mobile’s request would severely curtail, if not eliminate entirely” the carriers rights in setting their own data roaming rates…you think?

Sprint argues that, “Contrary to AT&T’s assertion, competing carriers have no choice but to obtain roaming services and pay AT&T and Verizon’s extraordinary rates.  In many geographic areas…”  Sprint claims that AT&T and Verizon’s footprint became so large because of the acquisitions of other, smaller carriers – something that the smaller carriers are “unable to replicate.”  With their tremendous resources they have the leverage to demand higher roaming rates far above what would be considered competitive.

Whether the FCC will side with T-Mobile and Sprint remain to be seen – one can see both sides of the argument.  Should AT&T and Verizon not enjoy the fruits of their labors in an open and competitive free market or should they have to pay, what amounts to “wireless welfare” because T-Mobile and Sprint are not as wealthy and big as they?  Please hook up with us on our Google+ Page and let us know what you think…as always, we would love to hear from you.