Mandating Shared Towers Is Not A New Idea

by Colin Berkshire

In a previous article I wrote about how we should mandate that any customer be allowed to roam onto any carrier’s tower. The priority would be on quality service. Tower operators would be rewarded for handling traffic.

This isn’t a new idea at all. Other countries do it.

In Thailand, the two most rival, warring, competitive cell phone companies are AIS and DTAC. They fight it out. It’s a real brawl in the streets. You see AIS and DTAC signs everywhere.

But there is an interesting thing going on behind the scenes: They allow their customers to roam onto each other’s towers. Yes, really.

There is simply no public policy reason to have cellular companies monopolize their towers. Neither AT&T nor Verizon benefit from keeping the other carrier’s customers off the other company’s towers.

Towers and bandwidth are a national resource. It is in the public interest to encourage full roaming. It would encourage small start-up cellular companies. It would encourage the construction of new towers. It would instantly provide better service to all consumers.

I am sure Verizon and AT&T will howl about how their networks are incompatible, despite the fact that the SIM-free iPhone can talk on any cellular system in the world, including either AT&T or Verizon.

But this hollow argument is no different than the one old AT&T used to prevent competitive long distance companies from being accessed. They argued that 1+ dialing couldn’t route across competitive long distance companies. For decades they argued that competitive long distance would result in electrocutions and a failed infrastructure. It’s the same old game again.

I believe that if customers get better overall service they will be willing to pay slightly higher rates. And, this will grow the industry. I believe it will encourage tower construction. I believe everybody will be better off.

Let’s follow the lead of a third world country like Thailand’s AIS and DTAC and start tower sharing.

In fact, let’s legally mandate it!