Reexamination of Roaming Obligations of Commercial Mobile Radio Service Providers
Washington, D.C. 20554
May 19, 2011
Small Entity Compliance Guide
Reexamination of Roaming Obligations of Commercial Mobile Radio Service
WT Docket No. 05-265
This Guide is prepared in accordance with the requirements of Section 212 of
the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act of 1996. It is intended
to help small entities--small businesses, small organizations (non-profits), and
small governmental jurisdictions--comply with the new rules adopted in the
above-referenced FCC rulemaking docket(s). This Guide is not intended to
replace the rules and, therefore, final authority rests solely with the rules.
Although we have attempted to cover all parts of the rules that might be
especially important to small entities, the coverage may not be exhaustive. This
Guide may, perhaps, not apply in a particular situation based upon the
circumstances, and the FCC retains the discretion to adopt approaches on a
case-by-case basis that may differ from this Guide, where appropriate. Any
decisions regarding a particular small entity will be based on the statute and
In any civil or administrative action against a small entity for a violation of
rules, the content of the Small Entity Compliance Guide may be considered as
evidence of the reasonableness or appropriateness of proposed fines, penalties or
damages. Interested parties are free to file comments regarding this Guide and
the appropriateness of its application to a particular situation; the FCC will
consider whether the recommendations or interpretations in the Guide are
appropriate in that situation. The FCC may decide to revise this Guide without
public notice to reflect changes in the FCC's approach to implementing a rule,
or to clarify or update the text of the Guide. Direct your comments and
recommendations, or calls for further assistance, to the FCC's Consumer
TTY: 1-888-TELL-FCC (1-888-835-5322)
Objectives of the ProceedingThe Commission has found that wireless consumers have a reasonable expectation of receiving
seamless continuous nationwide commercial mobile telephony services through roaming. In the
roaming proceeding, WT Docket No. 05-265, with regard to commercial services, the
Commission seeks to facilitate the provision of wireless services to consumers, especially those
in rural areas. In the 2007 Report and Order and Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, the
Commission clarified that automatic roaming is a common carrier obligation for commercial
mobile radio service (CMRS) carriers, requiring them to provide roaming services to other
CMRS carriers upon reasonable request and on a just, reasonable, and non-discriminatory basis.
The automatic roaming obligation applies to real-time, two-way switched voice or data services
provided by CMRS carriers that are interconnected with the public switched network, and push-
to-talk and text-messaging services.
More recently, the Commission modified the 2007 roaming rule in April 2010 and eliminated the
home roaming exclusion. Under the revised roaming rule, upon a reasonable request, CMRS
carriers are obligated to provide voice, text messaging, and push-to-talk roaming to any
technologically compatible, facilities-based CMRS carrier on reasonable and not unreasonably
discriminatory terms and conditions, pursuant to Sections 201 and 202 of the Communications
Act. This new framework for roaming will encourage carriers of all sizes to reach reasonable
roaming agreements for any area, while also encouraging these carriers to continue investing in
the coverage and capacity of their networks.
Automatic roaming.With automatic roaming, under a pre-existing contractual agreement
between a subscriber's requesting (home) carrier and a host carrier, a roaming subscriber is able
to originate or terminate a call in the host carrier's service area without taking any special
Commercial mobile radio service (CMRS)is a mobile service that is: (1) provided for profit
(i.e., with the intent of receiving compensation or monetary gain), an interconnected service, and
available to the public or to such classes of eligible users as to be effectively available to a
substantial portion of the public; or (2) the functional equivalent of such a mobile service (47
C.F.R. 20.3). (See also 47 U.S.C. 332(d)(1) defining "commercial mobile service" as "any
mobile service...that is provided for profit and makes interconnected service available (A) to the
public or (B) to such classes of eligible users as to be effectively available to a substantial
portion of the public.")
Host carrier.For automatic roaming, the host carrier is a facilities-based CMRS carrier on
whose system another carrier's subscriber roams. A facilities-based CMRS carrier may, on
behalf of its subscribers, request automatic roaming service from a host carrier. (47 C.F.R.
Manual roamingoccurs when a subscriber must establish a relationship with the host carrier on
whose system he or she wants to roam in order to make a call. Typically, the roaming subscriber
accomplishes this in the course of attempting to originate a call by giving a valid credit card
number to the carrier providing the roaming service (47 C.F.R. 20.3).
Rules That the Commission Amended
The Commission clarified that automatic roaming is a common carrier obligation for
CMRS carriers, subject to Sections 201 and 202 of the Communications Act. Under the
revised roaming rule, upon a reasonable request, CMRS carriers are obligated to provide
voice, text messaging, and push-to-talk roaming to any technologically compatible,
facilities-based CMRS carrier on reasonable and not unreasonably discriminatory terms
and conditions. (47 C.F.R. 20.12(d)).
The automatic roaming obligation extends to CMRS carriers that offer real-time, two-
way switched voice or data service that is interconnected with the public switched
network and utilize an in-network switching facility that enables the carrier to re-use
frequencies and accomplish seamless hand-offs of subscriber calls. The obligation is also
applicable to the provision of push-to-talk and text-messaging services by CMRS carriers
(47 C.F.R. 20.12(a)(2)).
Steps a Small Entity Must Take to Invoke its Rights Under the Automatic Roaming RuleTo the extent that an entity seeks to invoke its rights under the Commission's automatic roaming
obligation, the requesting carrier:
Must be a CMRS carrier.
Must make a reasonable request to the would-be host carrier for automatic roaming
service. The Commission will presume, in the first instance, that a request for automatic
roaming of covered services by a technologically compatible carrier is reasonable under
Sections 332(c), 201 and 202, regardless of whether the request includes areas where the
requesting carrier holds spectrum rights. A reasonable request may only involve 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 carrier to
re-use frequencies and accomplish seamless hand-offs of subscriber calls (See also 47
U.S.C. 153 and 332; 47 C.F.R. 20.3).
When such a request is made, a would-be host CMRS carrier has a duty to respond
promptly to the request and avoid actions that unduly delay or stonewall the course of
negotiations regarding that request. Such behavior would likely support a finding of a
breach of the would-be host carrier's automatic roaming obligations. (Host carriers
might also be small entities.)
As relates to push-to-talk and/or text messaging service(s), must offer such service(s) to
its subscribers on its own network; such roaming must be technically feasible; and any
changes to the would-be host carrier's network that are necessary to accommodate the
push-to-talk and/or text messaging roaming request(s) must be economically reasonable.
Complaints against CMRS carriers regarding the automatic roaming service obligation may be
filed with the Commission pursuant to Section 208 of the Communications Act (47 U.S.C.
208). The Commission reaffirmed its intent to address such roaming disputes expeditiously.
Whether or not the appropriate procedural vehicle is a complaint under Section 208 of the Act or
a petition for declaratory ruling under Section 1.2 of the Commission's rules, the Commission
will resolve such complaints on a case-by-case basis depending on the circumstances of each
case. In deciding such complaints, the Commission will determine on a case-by-case basis
whether requests are reasonable and whether the activity complained of is unjust and
unreasonable based on the totality of the circumstances of the particular case.
Recordkeeping and Other Compliance RequirementsThe only reporting or recordkeeping costs to be incurred are administrative costs to ensure that
an entity's practices are in compliance with the automatic roaming rule. The additional
compliance requirement is that providers must provide automatic roaming to any requesting
technologically compatible carrier on reasonable and non-discriminatory terms and conditions.
LinksReexamination of Roaming Obligations of Commercial Mobile Radio Service Providers
and Other Providers of Mobile Data Services, WT Docket No. 05-265, Order on
Reconsideration and Second Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, 75 FR 22338-
22352 (2010), 75 FR 22263-22276 (2010)
News Release, FCC Takes Steps to Promote Nationwide Mobile Connectivity (rel. April
Reexamination of Roaming Obligations of Commercial Mobile Radio Service Providers,
WT Docket No. 05-265, Report and Order and Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking,
22 FCC Rcd 15817 (2007).
Added/Revised Part 20 Rules
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