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7/23/2009
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Verizon Proposes Roaming Rule Change

The wireless carrier said it would support a law requiring it to provide competitors with roaming agreements under certain circumstances.

Verizon Wireless said it would support a law requiring mobile operators to provide roaming agreements with smaller competitors, according to a letter sent to lawmakers.

When wireless subscribers go out of their carrier's network range, a roaming agreement enables them to use another provider's network for cellular service. Currently, carriers are not required to offer these deals in areas where competitors own wireless spectrum but have yet to build out a network.

The letter said the largest U.S. carrier would support a law requiring mobile operators to provide competitors with roaming deals in areas where they are not currently obligated to do so. Verizon said there should be a time limit of two years, and this could be pushed to three years with special circumstances. Additionally, Verizon said it would only support changes if they were applied to all carriers on a "competitively neutral basis."

Smaller carriers like Leap Wireless and MetroPCS are particularly reliant on roaming deals because they do not have as big of a wireless footprint as carriers like AT&T, Sprint Nextel, T-Mobile, and Verizon. These smaller mobile operators may not be pleased with the time limitations Verizon is supporting.

"Verizon itself has relied on roaming agreements for over two decades as it built out its network and acquired competitors, but now has unilaterally decided that its remaining competitors are only entitled to roaming for two or three years," said Laurie Itkin, Leap's director of government affairs, in a statement.

The move may help Verizon curry favor with lawmakers, as mobile operators are facing increased scrutiny over their size and exclusivity deals. Last week, Verizon said it would ease up on exclusive handset deals in order to let smaller carriers have access to its phones at a quicker pace.


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