Roaming agreements between different carriers allow the subscriber of one network to use another when his or her home network is unavailable. It’s a great way of ensuring that you can always be in contact when out of coverage of your home carrier, but in the US market customers have tended to have better roaming agreements when sticking with the bigger carriers, Verizon and AT&T, compared with the smaller carriers. From an economics perspective, this makes sense: by choosing a smaller carrier, you accept that you might not have as good coverage and so may need to roam more (with higher charges) but when you’re on your carrier network, you hope to be paying less. This written, the mobile industry is still adopting LTE (Long Term Evolution, the current standard for carrier high speed Internet connectivity) technology across the USA and as I’ve written, once you’re used to high speed Internet on your device, it’s feels difficult to cope without! With this in mind, I’m welcoming T-Mobile USA’s news that they’re working with several carriers to enable LTE roaming and intend to finalise the deals by the year end. If you’re a T-Mobile subscriber and frequently find yourself without LTE coverage, this could be good news indeed.
T-Mobile have said that it is much easier to work with other GSM carriers that are also upgrading to LTE, especially existing T-Mobile roaming partners, because they are “aligned in technology and principles.” This written, T-Mobile were also keen to state that they do not rule out CDMA carriers that are also upgrading to LTE networks. T-Mobile are working with potential roaming partners using the CCA (Competitive Carriers Association) data roaming hub. This Data Service Hub is the only one of its kind in the industry and gives member carriers the opportunity to connect LTE roaming with WiFi and 3G roaming fallback. T-Mobile also stated that the reason for the delays in incorporating LTE roaming agreements was not due to their particular frequency band, as most of their devices support multiple frequencies, but associated with a changing commercial and business model. In essence, the rates that other carriers charge for LTE roaming need to be carefully aligned. LTE is a more efficient network so data rates should come down over time but the company is looking at creative new ways.
T-Mobile is no stranger to arguments regarding roaming, but their language used suggests that they are more willing to cooperate rather than fight. The news is encouraging, but what do you think? Are you a T-Mobile subscriber? Do you pay high roaming rates? Or have you moved to one of the bigger carriers because their network reaches just about everywhere?