Light Reading

AT&T Inks First LTE Roaming Deal in Canada

Sarah Thomas
12/9/2013
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AT&T is staking the claim of the first US operator to offer international 4G LTE roaming through a deal with Rogers Canada.

A partnership between the two will allow AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T)'s LTE customers to roam on to Rogers Communications Inc. (Toronto: RCI)'s LTE network, which currently covers about 70% of the country. AT&T already has roaming deals in place with other carriers in Canada, but only for its 3G network. This is its first international LTE roaming deal, and a first among US operators.

Roaming will continue to be an expensive proposition on LTE, however. AT&T offers roamers Data Global Add-on plans that give its customers only 120MB of data for $30 per month and up to 800MB of data at $120 per month. It says that 42% of its customer base is currently using an LTE device.

Why this matters
International LTE roaming is becoming an important battleground as the US operators work on completing their local LTE rollouts. It's both a technical challenge -- dealing with disparate spectrum bands across the globe -- and a business one -- working out deals that make it palatable to both operators. Several European 4G operators have struck deals between countries, but AT&T is the first US operator -- beating out US coverage leader Verizon Wireless -- to announce an LTE roaming agreement. (See LTE Inches Closer to Roaming the Globe.)

The deals will become more valuable as LTE becomes the global standard, but data pricing will still hold a lot of customers back from taking advantage of the 4G speeds abroad. It's another fact of wireless life that T-Mobile US Inc. is exploiting, undercutting its rivals on international roaming prices on its 3G HSPA+ network. (See Bills Don't Lie: T-Mobile Drops International Roaming Charges.)

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— Sarah Reedy, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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SarahReedy
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SarahReedy,
User Rank: Blogger
12/17/2013 | 11:17:40 AM
Re: Roaming parade
So far, so good -- AT&T announced a roaming deal with EE for LTE in the UK. Good to see it moving quickly!
Liz Greenberg
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Liz Greenberg,
User Rank: Light Sabre
12/9/2013 | 6:34:16 PM
Re: Roaming parade
Precisely Sarah...hence the insanity of the suggestion.  Realistically, my guess is that roaming between carriers within the US may end up pretty even financially so that it could potentially make economic sense to do so and would win much customer good will.  Between countries maybe so but they could cover any inequities via contracts.  Really realistically, mobile phone plans are really designed only for the benefit of the carriers so I never expect them to do anything that remotely favors the customer.  Sad but true...cynical even.
SarahReedy
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SarahReedy,
User Rank: Blogger
12/9/2013 | 6:07:33 PM
Re: Roaming parade
Doesn't that just apply to deals with the smaller carriers and not between the big four (which doesn't work CDMA to GSM anyway)?
DanJones
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DanJones,
User Rank: Blogger
12/9/2013 | 6:01:57 PM
Re: Roaming parade
Last I checked on that, didn't the FCC say they had to open in the US too?
SarahReedy
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SarahReedy,
User Rank: Blogger
12/9/2013 | 4:28:58 PM
Re: Roaming parade
I get what you're saying from a consumer perspective, but I agree that it won't happen from an operator perspective. But, from a business sense, I'm not sure it'd even be smart. Roaming is a big revenue generator. I think it needs to be reformed to be more customer friendly, but they won't give away the farm by letting operators switch at will between US carriers. That's not technically possible in most (all?) handsets anyway.
Liz Greenberg
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Liz Greenberg,
User Rank: Light Sabre
12/9/2013 | 4:25:39 PM
Re: Roaming parade
I think that if the carriers were smart, they would simply make it easier for users to actually use what they are paying for...i.e. ink deals both within the US and outside for LTE roaming.  If the handset is capable, let it happen.  Heresy - yes, wishful thinking -definitely, insane - absolutely.
SarahReedy
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SarahReedy,
User Rank: Blogger
12/9/2013 | 4:12:51 PM
Re: Roaming parade
I doubt we'll see roaming deals between US operators anytime soon..if ever. Out of the country, it makes good business sense though, don't you think?
pzernik
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pzernik,
User Rank: Light Sabre
12/9/2013 | 4:05:19 PM
Re: Roaming parade
Inking Roaming deals also "enables" rivals to announce better 4G coverage.  Perhaps the best strategy is not to think of doing any inking.  (At least in the home country)
SarahReedy
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SarahReedy,
User Rank: Blogger
12/9/2013 | 1:05:23 PM
Roaming parade
Hopefully AT&T's announcement will kick off a wave of roaming agreements for it and Verizon. (T-Mobile and Sprint still have too much US-centric work to do.) I imagine it will be a long process, since each operator deal is hacked out individually, but it's an important process. Qualcomm's chip that supports global roaming is making its way into more handsets, so it's the operators turn to start doing their part.
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