re: Roaming Trolls
You're mischaracterizing the issue -- there are very few roaming trolls, mostly there are companies that provide service where otherwise there is none.
Alltel has the largest network in the country, perhaps 50% coverage, but it covers basically the southeast and the wstern desert -- they have consciously avoided the higher-population areas where bidding wars tended to break out. Verizon Wireless probably has the second biggest, but probably only covers like 30% by area at best. Cingular is probably 3rd. I would say Verizon & Alltel put together might have 60% coverage at best (there's a good amount of overlap in the midwest). Sprint, by area, might cover 10% by area, if that (but, over 90% of the population) -- they have licenses for every license area in the country, but have whisper-thin coverage along interstates, and in-city coverage. It's not trolling to provide coverage for the other 40% of the country that the big boys do not want to cover.
"However, the military folks may be encountering another "interesting" issue, associated with ALL major cariers: there are "secondary carriers" - meaning small, one-horse operators - that, through politics, bidding for specific sites, etc., get the "rights" to put up a call tower in a specific location. These are usually next to areas like hospitals, military bases, beaches...you get the picture?"
Both cellular and PCS companies did NOT bid for specific locations -- they bid by MTA or BTA, which are in general a good sized fraction of a state, but are at least a whole county in size. Sprint, in particular, has a license in every single block nationwide.. they just haven't built most of it out. But, Verizon Wireless, Cingular, etc., all also have tons of area they have the right to build out in, but just don't. So, OK, some mom & pop built there -- but otherwise, they'd have a phone that says "no coverage".
"These "secondary" cariers then effectivly block signals from the primary carier with very strong signals, and "capture" any phone that is set to automatically roam. Once on their tower, they charge exorbitant rates - usually borne by the customer, but sometimes absorbed by the primary carrier through roaming agreements. Except that these "secondary" carriers don't have agreements with major carriers, except CASH ONLY."
They don't block signals, period. That's illegal, and they'd be fined out of business by now if they were doing it. There's 2 cellular and 6 PCS bands; the small provider has a separate block from the "primary" carrier.. the small one can put out as much juice as they want and they are NOT going to "block" the primary's signal, they're on different bands.. And, most phones will hang on to the slightest, crappiest hint of signal from the primary provider before they roam (unless the user forces roaming), so simply having a stronger signal will not force roaming in any way. I can't argue with "cash only" roaming.. when I roam off US Cellular, it does take 2 months for it to show on my bill, so I'm sure Verizon is having to do things pretty manually, since other roaming I've done showed up within a day or two on my online bill.
"There have been "scams" where a group of folks associated with the "secondary" carrier will subscribe to a major carrier, then roam for hours in the "secondary" cell, simply to drive roaming revenue to the tower owner. Think of this as the cell phone equivalent of a click bot that cranks revenue through a web site by hitting a pay-per-click site repeatedly."
Maybe. Verizon Wireless does NOT have a 50% roaming rule, and I have heard of plenty of people that live in Alaska getting a phone down in the lower 48, getting the bill mailed down there somewhere, and moving back up to Alaska -- since Verizon Wireless' rates are like half of Alaska Digitel or ACS' rates, and they'll roam on them for free. That's not the phone company itself though.