FCC agrees with T-Mobile’s request for clearer data roaming rules


Earlier this year, T-Mobile petitioned the FCC to make changes to its data roaming agreement guidelines. Complaining that the Commission’s current rules are too vague, and could lead to companies like AT&T charging smaller carriers exorbitant amounts for national data roaming. It was a move which saw the backing of the Competitive Carriers Association, Sprint and a number of other smaller carriers. AT&T actively defended the current rules, claiming that any changes would “violate the Telecommunications Act”.

Yesterday, the FCC announced that it is siding with T-Mobile’s petition and disagreeing with both Verizon and AT&T’s arguments against making any changes. The new ruling will make clear what the FCC means when it states that data roaming rates should be “commercially reasonable”. And although it won’t change data roaming rules – as such – it will provide a better understanding to carriers as to how the regulator will evaluate potential complaints.

“In our view, the data roaming rule was intended to permit consideration of the totality of the facts and therefore to permit a complaining party to adduce evidence in any individual case as to whether proffered roaming rates are substantially in excess of retail rates, international rates, and MVNO/resale rates, as well as a comparison of proffered roaming rates to domestic roaming rates as charged by other providers.”

T-Mobile was quick to praise the FCC’s latest actions stating:

“We commend the FCC for taking this important step to promote competition by facilitating reasonable data roaming rates for all carriers and their customers.”

Unsurprisingly, the two old-school carriers (who both stand to lose some control) didn’t react as positively. AT&T claimed that it disagrees strongly with the decision, and that the carrier will appeal “to the full commission, and further if necessary.” Verizon, likewise, stated that the manner in which the new ruling was decided is “deeply troubling”.

Perhaps what Verizon and AT&T fail to see is that given the amount of spectrum they both own, and the amount of market share they control, they should be held accountable for misusing that control. If smaller carriers with lesser resources feel they’ve been asked for unreasonable amounts of money for roaming on either of the networks, they should have a way to measure that. And – more importantly – clearer guidelines on when they can bring the complaint to the FCC.

Just like when T-Mobile persuaded the FCC to change spectrum auction rules, this is another win for the Uncarrier. And perhaps, these changes to telecommunications guidelines and rules are just as important as any of the more obvious Uncarrier changes T-Mo has made this year.

Source: FCC (PDF file)
Via: Fierce Wireless

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  • Rob H.

    As a T-Mobile customer, when we do have the misfortune to roam on to AT&T it’s like not having any internet access, it’s worse than 2G. Just does not work. Aside from frequent dropped calls. YMMV.

    • Chad Dalton

      Yeah esepeciall when going through WEST VIRGINIA, absolute CRAP

      • Logan S

        A good WV Joke? Some may say that is the proper use of the state name and the four letter word. But seriously, WV is the reason why I have AT&T and Cricket in my basket of providers – for winter travels to WV.

      • Jay J. Blanco

        West Virginia has some nice 700mhz block a that’s not for sell. Ironic

    • Mr Paul

      Your problems are not with AT&T, your problems are with AT&T’s limitations on the roaming. AT&T in mid-Atlantic states is the greatest LTE experience I’ve ever had, so yes, YMMV x1000.

  • Jrunner

    As the previous post about the Idaho tower showed, it sometimes is not always easy to put a tower where it needs to go due to NIMBY concerns. If the roaming rates are not reasonable, then they should allow t-mobile to rent space on the tower at a reasonable rate and put up their own antenna in some instances (although due to the low band frequencies VZW and AT&T use and t mobile needing a tighter grid, that may still not always help). In the past, it was easier to strike agreements with smaller regional carriers. But as many of those have gone by the wayside, the game has changed and obviously this ruling acknowledges that.

    • Logan S

      Common sense says there should be some type of allowance for leasing space on existing towers. Is that under Fed or local/state?

  • Jay J. Blanco

    Hopefully we get 1GB of roaming instead of 50MB on my plan smh.

    • eanfoso

      I think it’s ironic that t mobile offers unlimited international roaming but only 50 Mb on a 20$ unlimited plan, it’s like wow, you should give cricket a spin man, my family is loving it, especially when we go to California t mobile has either roaming or no coverage when cricket has 4G LTE plus it’ll be like a couple of months for free.

      • EndlessIke

        super cool story bro

        • eanfoso

          I know man! Like seriously from Texas to California t mobile sucks on the road, unless you’re in a big city on the way

      • Jay J. Blanco

        Im on a 2yr contract with tmobile im not paying cancelation fees

        • eanfoso

          How I thought t mobile did away with contracts about 2 years ago!

        • Jay J. Blanco

          They did but it’s still ppl who signed one from 2012

        • eanfoso

          By this time, you should be able to switch to simple choice instead of classic, ask them man, that’ll set you free, plus you’ll get free service for a couple of months from cricket

        • kalel33

          They won’t allow you out of the contract, even if you switch to the new plans. I know, because I was on the Simple Choice plan but was still in contract.

        • eanfoso

          I know that if you buy a phone from them they’ll get you out, and you can buy like a cheap ol 60$ Nokia mobile and you won’t have a contract anymore

        • Austin

          If you trade in your phone and switch to simple choice, they will forgive your contract. Uncarrier 4- contract freedom

      • Jay J. Blanco

        Im on a 2yr contract with tmobile im not paying cancelation fees

      • jay_max

        TMO has either roaming or no coverage in California? Come on, you can do better than that. I’ve had great LTE coverage in California, whether in the Bay Area, 101 to SLO, Los Angeles, or Palm Springs.

        • eanfoso

          Lol no man, I live in Texas but traveling from south east Texas to California was a pain when I had t mobile, even west of san Antonio it’ll be intermittent to no coverage to roaming to no coverage, like seriously 6 hours of roaming and no coverage until we got to el Paso TX then it was still in and out in Arizona and new Mexico, but it was all well with cricket this year.

      • doubleatheman

        T-Mobile is owning in California… I only ever have issues with Tmo outside of california…

        • Ashton3002

          No no. No. Not all of California. In CITIES? Sure. However California the state. no it’s owned by Verizon and AT&T.

        • eanfoso

          No no no I live in Texas, but when we traveled to California we have to drive east, which was painful, it’s even in their coverage map that west of san Antonio coverage fades and at times none on IH-10, which in the middle of nowhere can be dangerous, I have a car cradle signal booster, which was decent, but it doesn’t create a signal of its own so it can only do so much, check it out for yourself, the route from Beaumont TX to California, I seriously hope that they can light up the way for me later on.

    • ewilts

      I’ve got a 1GB per month data plan. I get 10MB of domestic roaming and then it stops completely. Gee thanks. I can go to the northern parts of Canada and get free 2G speeds the entire time I’m there. WTF?

  • More than the current spectrum that both ATT and VZW own today. The licenses in the cellular bands that both own was not bid for in auction, but given to the respective predecessor companies in the years of AMPS, which have now been repurposed for digital mobile communications. Owning such licenses at these bands gave them a tremendous advantage over other competitors which came about later. They should have lost the licenses when AMPS was shut down and reauctioned, but it’s too late for that.

  • Ryanide

    Welcome to another wonderful day of “Corporate America!”
    The big 2 don’t care about anything but their endless profits.

    • GinaDee

      Well what do you expect any business to care about?

      They don’t run businesses for the health or welfare of T-Mobile or any other company. They run businesses to make a profit just like T-Mobile does.

      T-Mobile has been fortunate that they’ve been riding the recent wave of government sympathy but at some point that will wane.

      • Jay J. Blanco

        Attached and Verizon were blessed with 850mhz. Not t-mobile. So they were literally given there flawless networks. t-mobile worked hard to get a foot hold into the U.S. Market. Unlike AT&T and Verizon.

        • Mr Paul

          That’s for CDMA and GSM, which is only somewhat of a blessing. 700MHz is more the blessing.

        • Ashton3002

          Okay but let’s not forget T-mobile was given spectrum as well. It might not be low band spectrum but it was what made them today. And that same spectrum is what they throw in AT&T and Verizons faces as if they earned it. That’s one thing that i dont have sympathy for T-Mobile when it comes to spectrum holdings. And actually their perfect network runs mainly because 700mhz.

    • Mr Paul

      The big 2 are the only carriers who have been competent enough to manage to actually bring coverage to people, and they charge the biggest premium, mainly Verizon, for having such. It is very, very wrong, but there is no competition.

      T-Mobile is a city and college town carrier and Sprint still has to keep filling in more of the gaps next year before we’re going to see if they’ll either be on par with T-Mobile, or crush them.

  • KijBeta

    Maybe this will help keep some of the small regional carriers in business.

  • Romdude

    Nice graphic there cam with the death star AT&T.