T-Mobile Wins at FCC in Fight Over AT&T, Verizon Roaming Charges

T-Mobile US Inc., the fourth-largest U.S. wireless carrier, won its bid to change rules for judging whether market leaders AT&T Inc. and Verizon Communications Inc. charge smaller competitors too much to use their networks for roaming.

The Federal Communications Commission in an order released today said it would grant a petition from T-Mobile, and would compare proposed roaming rates with other prices during disputes.

“We commend the FCC for taking this important step to promote competition,” Andy Levin, a senior vice president at Bellevue, Washington-based T-Mobile, said in an e-mail.

Verizon called the FCC’s decision “deeply troubling” in an e-mailed statement from Kathleen Grillo, senior vice president for federal regulatory affairs. The FCC “has changed a fundamental wireless rule in ways that discourage investment and unfairly advantage one company over others,” Grillo said.

AT&T said it will appeal the decision, issued by the FCC’s wireless bureau, to the agency’s five commissioners.

“We disagree strongly with this action,” Bob Quinn, senior vice president-federal regulatory, said in an e-mailed statement.

AT&T charges 150 percent more than the average rate T-Mobile pays for data roaming elsewhere, Kathleen Ham, vice president of regulatory affairs for T-Mobile, said in a Sept. 2 blog post.

The rate T-Mobile pays to AT&T has dropped 70 percent over three years, Joan Marsh, AT&T’s vice president of federal regulatory, said in an Oct. 27 blog post. T-Mobile asked for “radical changes” to a roaming market that’s functioning well, Marsh said.