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AT&T signs LTE roaming agreement with EE

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US operator AT&T has signed an LTE roaming agreement in the UK with EE. The agreement was announced just days after the US firm inked a similar deal in Canada with Rogers Communications.

EE said that the size and speed of its LTE network, which will cover more than 160 towns and cities by Christmas, makes it an ideal roaming partner in the UK for international operators. The UK operator added that this is it first LTE roaming agreement and plans to announce more agreements early next year.

According to Chris Sims, commercial director at EE, one of the complexities facing LTE roaming is in the lack of spectrum harmonisation globally. However, Sims pointed out that such challenges will gradually be overcome.

“For example, handsets that support 1800MHz are available abroad today and we believe that regular travellers to Europe will begin to ask for 1800MHz handsets in their pockets and we believe the prevalence of that will increase.”

Sims could not divulge at this stage whether EE will announce a similar outbound roaming agreement in the US with AT&T but revealed that it is conducting several roaming tests with international operators currently and that it is looking primarily to partner with tier one operators.

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“Bigger partners generally have better, more established network support which benefits customers and they typically have more traffic, which at a pure wholesale level is good for us as well,” he said.

He added that EE is working with partners to deliver more innovative wholesale models to allow both partners to gain benefit from unlocking customers’ roaming services usage. “That’s in stark contrast with the strategy today for 3G roaming,” he added.

Commenting on roaming legislation due to be introduced in the EU next year, Sims added that EE has its concerns about the success such legislation will bring.

“Historically we have always been told that lower pricing will generate elasticity and that has not always been the case, so we will see what next year brings,” he said.

“One thing is that there are requirements on decoupling being placed on operators. One of the things we have tried to do as a business is try to simplify our roaming plans. The legislation coming into force will allow our customers to buy roaming services from other providers and we believe that is going to introduce quite a lot of complexity that we have invested quite heavily to reduce in our roaming services.”

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