Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Roaming Policies In Wireless Contracts part 1

Roaming is an important aspect of using a mobile phone. Since roaming can add more charges to your monthly bill, it would be a good idea to know what your wireless contract states about it. But for the benefit of those who are unfamiliar about this term or for those who never cared before, let me give a brief explanation.

In the wireless telecommunications industry, roaming is a general term that to refers to the extending of connectivity service in a location that is different from the home location where the service was registered. This means that you are "roaming" if you use your mobile phone on a network that is outside the home service area of your carrier. More importantly, you might be charged for "roaming".

Let us look at the roaming policies of different mobile phone networks so that you will have an idea of the charges that you might incur. These policies are often stated on their wireless contracts or terms and conditions so let us tackle them individually.

Let's being with Alltel Wireless' roaming policy as that on their wireless contract. The Charges for Services and Equipment section of Alltel's Terms and Conditions states that,
"You may incur additional charges for roaming or long distance calls. Rates and charges while roaming outside of your local Alltel service area may be different from your Alltel service area rates."
This statement clearly express that an Alltel customer may suffer from additional charges if he or she makes calls outside Alltel's home service area. They also make it clear that the charges incurred while roaming may not be the same as the rates in their service area.

However, there is something very important that you need to remember if you are an Alltel customer. You should never abuse roaming because Alltel may limit, interrupt, terminate or refuse to provide service if "the majority of your Service is used roaming on a network not owned or operated by Alltel."

Let's proceed with AT&T's policy on roaming. The Roaming section of the terms and Conditions of this network states that
Roaming charges for wireless data or voice service may be charged with some plans when outside AT&T's wireless network. Display on your device will not indicate whether you will incur roaming charges. Services originated or received while outside your plan's included coverage area are subject to roaming charges. Use of Services when roaming is dependent upon roaming carrier's support of applicable network technology and functionality. Check with roaming carriers individually for support and coverage details. Billing for domestic and international roaming usage may be delayed up to three billing cycles due to reporting between carriers. If your usage of the Services on other carriers' wireless networks ("offnet usage") during any two consecutive months exceeds your offnet usage allowance, AT&T may at its option terminate your wireless service or access to data Services, deny your continued use of other carriers' coverage, or change your plan to one imposing usage charges for offnet usage. Your offnet usage allowance is equal to the lesser of 6 megabytes or 20% of the kilobytes included with your plan and for messaging plans the lesser of 3000 messages or 50% of the messages included with your plan. AT&T will provide notice that it intends to take any of the above actions and you may terminate your agreement. You may be required to (1) use a device programmed with AT&T's preferred roaming database; and (2) have a mailing address and live in the United States, Puerto Rico or the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Well, that was quite a handful. Customers that have signed up for some AT&T wireless plans may be charged if they use their phone beyond the scope of AT&T's network. A mobile phone will not be able to inform a customer that he is "roaming" while making a call. You will also suffer penalties including the termination of your services if your offnet usage exceeds your roaming usage allowance during any two consecutive months. AT&T subscribers should read their contracts carefully.

Let us now check out Sprint Nextel's take on roaming. Their roaming policy as found on their Terms and Condition states that,
"Roaming" typically refers to coverage on another carrier's network that we make available to you based on our agreements with other carriers. These agreements may change from time to time and roaming coverage is subject to change. Your ability to receive roaming coverage depends on the radio transmissions your Device can pick up. You can pick up roaming coverage both within and outside our network coverage areas. Your Device will generally indicate when you're roaming. Depending on your Services, separate charges or limits on the amount of minutes used while roaming may apply. Certain Services may not be available or work the same when roaming (including data Services, voicemail, call waiting, etc.)
Sprint explains that roaming coverage is dependent on the agreements they have with other wireless networks. They also emphasize that these agreements may undergo change at anytime. A Sprint mobile phone will also indicate if the owner is outside their home coverage area. They may charge separately for roaming calls and limits the minutes that may be spent roaming. However, Sprint does not indicate any penalty for excessive roaming calls unlike AT&T and Alltel.

Those are the roaming policies of a few mobile phone networks as stated on their wireless contracts. I will blog about the roaming policies of other networks on the second part of this series. I hope the info on this post will prove useful to you.

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