FCC Adopts New Data Roaming Rules to Promote Mobile Broadband

by Brendon P. Fowler

On April 7, 2011, the FCC voted 3-2 to require mobile broadband operators to offer data roaming arrangements to other providers. Such arrangements allow consumers with mobile data plans to remain connected by utilizing another network while roaming outside their own provider’s network coverage. Conceptually, the data roaming rules are related to those already established for voice roaming, and Chairman Genachowski tied the Commission’s present action to its prior efforts to develop “automatic” voice roaming and nationwide voice services. Analysts believe that the decision will benefit companies like Sprint Nextel Corporation and MetroPCS Communications Inc. at the expense of AT&T and Verizon Wireless by allowing smaller competitors onto the networks owned by larger rivals, and by enabling smaller carriers to offer more broadband services.

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