FCC votes to ease cellphone roaming barriers

Federal regulators today moved toward helping small mobile carriers challenge industry leaders AT&T Inc. and Verizon Wireless.

The Federal Communications Commission voted 3-0 to ask whether rules are needed to ensure mobile devices can operate on airwaves used by the two largest carriers and other companies like Overland Park-based Sprint Nextel.

AT&T and Verizon are wary of an additional regulatory burden, and small carriers say interoperability would ease roaming by their customers onto the larger carriers’ airwaves, David Kaut and Christopher King, Stifel Nicolas & Co. analysts, said in a note to investors.

The agency also began removing barriers to Dish Network Corp.’s proposed mobile high-speed data network, voting 3-0 to begin recasting rules that reserve the company’s recently acquired airwaves for satellite use.