Friday, July 4, 2008

Lawmakers Argue Over Roaming

Here's some more wireless contracts news. Apparently, lawmakers have been debating about over roaming. Some experts say that the controversy over this wireless contract policy may grow into a major fault line in the mobile-phone industry. Let me discuss roaming before we proceed to the meat of this news.

The term "Roaming" is used in wireless telecommunications to describe the extending of connectivity service in a location that is different from the home location where the service was registered. Now every carrier has it's own wireless contract policies on roaming and the charges that come with it.

Here's a statement from the wireless contract of on roaming:

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.

Now that we have discussed the concept of roaming, it's time to get back to the news. The trend to consolidate roaming policies and fees among mobile phone carriers is making an already rough-and-tumble roaming dispute even more volatile. Small carriers have remained dissatisfied with last year’s FCC ruling that declared automatic roaming a common-carrier obligation for cellular operators.

Unfortunately, the FCC ruling has fan the flames over an in-market exemption, the applicability of the mandate to push-to-talk service and the possibility of extending the new rule to high speed wireless Internet services.

To make matters worse the FCC has yet to rule regulatory challenges to its roaming order. Some lawmakers have made inquiries ion to the FCC's plans to proceed on challenges to the automatic roaming ruling.

The legislators are also
concerned that the in-market exception will affect districts with large concentrations of low-income and minority citizens. This market is largely served by small and regional wireless providers.

Leap Wireless International Inc., SouthernLINC Wireless, U.S. Cellular Corp., MetroPCS Communications Inc., Sprint Nextel Corp., T-Mobile USA Inc. and several rural telecom associations are questioning the
FCC roaming rule.

Well, I hope that the legislators and the FCC can figure out the best solution to this roaming controversy. Tune in to this blog for more wireless contract info and news.

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