Wireless Carriers Ink International Roaming Deal

Wireless operators across Europe and the Asia-Pacific region announced thisweek a series of roaming agreements in which crossing borders does not translate into loss of service or fear of fees.

The Wireless Broadband Alliance (WBA) — which includesBT, Maxis, NTT, T-Mobile, Telstra and StarHub — announced that theroaming arrangements would allow users to connect via the same broadbandWiFi subscriptions at home and abroad.

“This will give the customers access to information, communication andentertainment through a single wireless broadband account,” the WBA said ina statement.

One World, One Account

The WBA, which claims collective operation of more than 18,000 wirelesshot spots around the globe, said the announcement is aimed at internationaltravelers looking to stay connected throughout the world.

The group — made up of about a dozen major carriers from the UK, China,Japan, Australia, the U.S. and elsewhere — said that the roaming deals “setthe standard” for a uniform and consistent approach to international roamingand should help drive widespread adoption of wireless broadband.

“For the first time ever, the customers of our participating carrierswill be able to roam across the broader international wireless broadbandnetworks with one account,” said WBA chairman Kyong Yu in a statement.

Not Needed in US

Ken Dulaney, Gartner vice president of mobile computing, said that despite the size of the U.S., the carrier coverage inNorth America does not require the type of cross-roaming agreementsannounced this week, which do cover some international visitors in the U.S.and Canada.

Formed last year, the WBA’s goal is to drive wireless broadband adoptionthrough a common commercial, technical and marketing framework. The groupconsists of three working groups in those areas.

In July 2003 it launchedits first roaming pilot. As of about a year ago, the Alliance membership hadgrown rapidly from the initial group of five to 17 network operators.

No Added Fees

Dulaney called the WBA roaming deals a response by the carriers to thedesire for flat-rate plans that do not include added fees.

There is some concern that roaming fees, which are being waiveduntil the end of the year, will later be reimposed by carrierswithin the roaming agreements. Dulaney does not think this is likely, however, because the agreement resulted in part from user unrest over roaming fees.

“A flat rate is what people want, and they want that internationally,especially in Europe, where crossing borders is common,” Dulaneytold TechNewsWorld.

“People hate [roaming fees]. I think the whole purpose ofthis is to try and cap roaming fees to get them under control.”

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