Verizon announced that its phones will not be able to roam on AT&T’s LTE network. This is a sad moment for me.
The ultimate dream in mobile phones is that you can take your (unsubsidized) phone to any carrier you wish. This would theoretically force carriers to compete more on price and quality of service instead of relying on contract lock-in. Most of Europe is like this with GSM.
The limitations in the US has been frequency differences compounded on top of network architecture and software differences. There is no difference with new LTE either. With the ITC allowing 12 frequencies for LTE this means international roaming may be long gone.
Carriers would like nothing better than to force you to buy a completely new handset in order to switch providers because your personal business case then weakens and you are more likely to stay on the network.
Even with LTE technology looking like the unified 4G technology of the future, each carrier licenses different buckets of spectrum. Thus the only way to get a phone that might possibly be able to roam will be if chip manufacturers include the various frequencies into one chip.
We’ll have to wait and see for the technology to mature but I don’t see a big push to allow us consumers to roam or switch carriers with ease.