It is short-sighted to ignore the eventuality of both wholly IP-based 3G and 4G mobile networks
The Rural Telecommunications Group (RTG) filed comments with the FCC today refuting AT&T’s claim that data roaming is not a commercial mobile radio service (CMRS) subject to common carrier obligations.
AT&T first argues that data roaming must only be treated as a private mobile service (PMS) and not as CMRS (or the functional equivalent of CMRS). AT&T bases this argument on its belief that little evidence exists to support the premise that mobile data is a close economic substitute for voice services which are classified as CMRS. Next, AT&T argues that data roaming does not qualify as a “hybrid” service of CMRS.
RTG responds that not only is data roaming the functional equivalent of CMRS but that given its interdependency with voice roaming it also meets the definition of a CMRS “hybrid service.”
Economic substitutability is most evident today primarily because mobile consumers in the U.S. have embraced mobile data services, in particular texting, instant messages, mobile e-mail, social networking, mobile gaming, mobile Internet access, multi-media messaging and streaming video as a viable and preferable substitute to voice calling because the pricing of those data services have matched or fallen below voice services. On numerous occasions in the recent past AT&T has admitted that these consumer-wide shifts from voice to data have become a reality. Moreover, AT&T has conceded in the past that these shifts to voice alternatives are because of consumer price sensitivity.
RTG also says the FCC must recognize that regardless of how data roaming is classified in a legal sense, it will remain an indispensable component of mobile communications for the vast majority of consumers, including those consumers living in and traveling through rural America. The FCC and the mobile wireless industry must accept two future events as inevitable:
- traditional public switched telephone network will one day become obsolete, however the human act of transmitting voice communications, while mobile, from one place to another will never become obsolete, and
- because not every mobile operator will have the resources, and especially the requisite FCC licenses, to build and operate a truly nationwide mobile network, the ability of a consumer to “roam” when outside the service area of his or her operator’s native network coverage area is of paramount importance and a given expectation by that consumer.
Therefore, it is short-sighted to ignore the eventuality of both wholly IP-based 3G and 4G mobile networks and the continual integration of mobile VoIP as a practical, economic substitute for what today constitutes both voice communications and voice roaming. Likewise, it is impossible to speculate on the permutations that voice communications will take in the future.
About RTG – Headquartered in Washington, DC, the Rural Telecommunications Group is a trade association representing rural wireless carriers who serve less than 100,000 subscribers. RTG’s members have joined together to speed delivery of new, efficient and innovative telecommunications technologies to remote and underserved communities. www.ruraltelecomgroup.org @RTGwireless
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