June 27, 2014
Back in March, Sprint announced plans to expand its LTE network by working with the Competitive Carrier Association (CCA), NetAmerica Alliance and rural carriers. The goal: to build broad LTE coverage through roaming agreements, cooperation on devices and spectrum sharing.
Earlier this month, Sprint made good on that objective, signing low-cost LTE roaming agreements with a dozen rural operators.
It’s a setup that will broaden Sprint’s LTE presence while simultaneously providing rural carriers with the necessary tools (e.g. funds, spectrum capabilities and devices) to successfully deploy LTE.
Expect better nationwide 4G LTE coverage for 34 million potential customers across more than 352,000 square miles in 23 states*, further advancing the recent progress of LTE networks in the US – particularly in rural areas with limited coverage (see: An LTE Comparison Infographic and Comparing Network Coverage in 2014 to see how far LTE coverage has come since last year).
From a market standpoint, this deal means more wireless competition, especially as other carriers work to improve their LTE offerings (see: T-Mobile is Next in Line to Expand LTE). And, as we’ve discussed in the past, more wireless competition means better rates and options for consumers.
Sprint’s collaboration with rural carriers is one part of the Rural Roaming Preferred Program, the official name of the agreement between Sprint, CCA and NetAmerica Alliance. In conjunction with the Small Market Alliance for Rural Transformation (SMART), these agreements will be mutually beneficial.
Ultimately, CCA carriers will be able to lease 800 MHz and 1.9 GHz spectrum from Sprint (in markets where Sprint did not plan to launch LTE services). By gaining these resources, rural carriers will build out LTE services compliant with Sprint’s Network Vision program (including a reciprocal roaming agreement) and tap into network core services provided by Sprint and NetAmerica.*
Reports indicate that NetAmerica has completed preliminary agreements with 14 companies and engaged in discussions with approximately 40 additional companies in more than a dozen states.
Plus, as rumors swirl that Sprint plans to acquire T-Mobile, experts predict that T-Mobile will join the list of rural carriers. Although things are looking up for T-Mobile in the wireless market, the no. 4 carrier in the U.S. is still significantly lacking in rural LTE coverage.
The idea is that these agreements will greatly improve network quality and range across the country, helping the U.S. stay relevant in a competitive and fast-growing global LTE environment.
* Meyer, Dan. Sprint signs LTE roaming deals with a dozen rural operators, RCR Wireless.