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FCC forces data roaming on US wireless giants

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The US Federal Communications Commission has approved roles that would let smartphone users affordably access the internet using their rival provider's network.

A vote along by party lines by the Federal Communications Commission has gone in favor of forcing US carriers to offer data access at "reasonable" roaming rates, according to reports.

Mobile roaming for voice services has already been mandated by the regulator.

The new proposal had been favored by smaller US carrier Spring Nextel and MetroPCS Communications.

Verizon and AT&T, the nation's largest carriers, have little incentive to offer affordable data roaming given their market domination.

Moreover, the proposed merger of AT&T and the US's fourth largest carrier, T-Mobile USA, would consolidate that company's hold on market as it leapfrogged Verizon meaning even less incentive to provide affordable roaming.

FCC chairman Julius Genachowski said Thursday that evidence shows carriers like AT&T and Verizon had have failed to deliver roaming data plans on "commercially reasonable terms."

Mobile providers must be able to offer nationwide voice and data plans to have any chance of competing in today's market, Genachowski said. ®

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