Media Law Prof Blog

Editor: Christine A. Corcos
Louisiana State Univ.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Common Carrier Obligations Concerning Roaming

The FCC has issued this clarification concerning automatic roaming on mobile phones.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – In a Report and Order (Order) and Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (Notice) adopted today, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) clarified the roaming obligations of Commercial Mobile Radio Services (CMRS) providers, stating that automatic roaming is a common carrier obligation for CMRS carriers.  Automatic roaming allows roaming mobile telephone customers to place calls as they do in their home coverage area, by simply entering a phone number and pressing “send.”

The FCC required CMRS carriers to provide roaming services to other carriers upon reasonable request and on a just, reasonable, and non-discriminatory basis under Sections 201 and 202 of the Communications Act.  When a reasonable request is made by a technologically compatible CMRS carrier, a host CMRS carrier must provide automatic roaming to the requesting carrier outside of the requesting carrier’s home market.  The FCC also decided to maintain its existing manual roaming requirement, which requires CMRS providers to permit customers of other carriers to roam manually on their networks, for example by supplying a credit card number, provided that the roamers’ handsets are technically capable of accessing the roamed-on network. 

The common carrier obligation to provide roaming extends to real-time, two-way switched voice or data services that are interconnected with the public switched network and utilize an in-network switching facility that enables the provider to reuse frequencies and accomplish seamless hand-offs of subscriber calls.  The FCC also extended the automatic roaming obligation to “Push-to-Talk” and text messaging services, and sought comment on whether the roaming obligation should be extended to services that are classified as information services or to services that are not CMRS.

In the current wireless marketplace, CMRS consumers increasingly rely on mobile telephony services and reasonably expect to continue their wireless communications even when they are out of their home network area, and today’s decision will provide additional flexibility for consumers. 

Action by the Commission on August 7, 2007, by Report and Order and Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (FCC 07-143). Chairman Martin, Commissioners Tate and McDowell,

with Commissioners Copps and Adelstein concurring in part.  Separate statements issued by Chairman Martin and Commissioners Copps, Adelstein, Tate, and McDowell.

For additional information, contact Nese Guendelsberger at (202) 418-0634 or; Won Kim at (202) 418-1368 or; or Christina Clearwater at (202) 418-1893 or

Read the press release here.

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