Verizon, AT&T detail data roaming agreements

The nation's two largest wireless carriers--AT&T Mobility (NYSE:T) and Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ)--provided extensive details on their respective data roaming agreements as part of arguments before the FCC on the agency's review of the topic.

The two carriers said they have inked a number of data roaming agreements, actions they argue provide evidence against the need for a government mandate that would require automatic data roaming agreements.

Specifically, Verizon Wireless said it now has 65 active roaming partners, and that "almost one third of those roaming partners either have not requested data roaming or made initial inquiries but then stopped actively seeking data roaming." The carrier added that, of its roaming partners that want data roaming, about 75 percent have an agreement, and most of the others are in discussions with Verizon Wireless towards an agreement.

Concluded the carrier in a recent FCC filing: "Verizon Wireless entered into 7 more EVDO roaming agreements in just the past 6 months; about half of our data roaming agreements are now for EVDO. Another 7 roaming partners have projects under way to implement EVDO roaming with Verizon Wireless."

For its part, AT&T argued that it has already entered into more than 40 2.5G data roaming agreements. "AT&T has made 3G roaming offers to a number of carriers and is in the process of negotiating 3G roaming agreements with several carriers who utilize or intend to utilize compatible 3G technology," AT&T wrote in a recent filing.

The arguments by the nation's largest operators stand in stark contrast to filings by smaller wireless carriers, which argue the FCC should mandate automatic data roaming as it has already done with voice calling--an effort intended to give smaller carriers a chance to compete against larger operators.

For example, the Rural Cellular Association and the Rural Telecommunications Group in a joint filing with the FCC wrote that "AT&T told RCA it will not negotiate any 3G data roaming agreements unless it helps to fill-in its nationwide coverage map. Verizon has also told numerous RTG members that it will not enter into EVDO (3G) roaming agreements in areas where it already has 3G coverage. In other words, if AT&T or Verizon do not have 3G holes to fill, they do not want a carrier to have the benefit of roaming on their respective 3G networks."

RTG and RCA cited filings by Cox Communications, Cellular South and SouthernLINC Wireless that detailed the operators' difficulties in obtaining data roaming agreements with either AT&T or Verizon.

For more:
- see this AT&T FCC filing
- see this Verizon FCC filing
- see this RCA/RTG FCC filing

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