Jump to content

The Wall

  • entries
    411
  • comments
    6,277
  • views
    4,767,056

Contributors to this blog

Sprint considering partnerships with fellow Rural Cellular Association members

pyroscott

4,361 views

blog-0990517001333220914.jpg

by Scott Johnson

Sprint 4G Rollout Updates

Sunday, April 1, 2012 - 2:00 AM MDT

 

Sprint Nextel joined the Rural Cellular Association (RCA) in April 2011, the reasons for joining at that time could have been motivated by the proposed AT&T purchase of T-Mobile and increasing their lobbying power with the RCA. Recently though, Sprint has been working towards partnerships with other RCA members on network sharing and spectrum hosting arrangements to increase their LTE coverage footprint.

 

Roaming agreements are crucial to regional carriers and smaller nationwide carriers alike. Without nationwide roaming agreements, regional carriers cannot offer a competitive product. Smaller nationwide carriers like Sprint cannot compete with the likes of AT&T and Verizon without roaming agreements that extend their network over a similar footprint. When roaming agreements extend to advanced technology, it vastly benefits both the carriers and the customers.

 

When Lightsquared’s nationwide LTE network dissipated in the wake of GPS interference issues, so did the LTE plans of several regional carriers. These carriers had seen an opportunity to gain LTE connectivity for their customers without the need to use their own spectrum. They also would have avoided trying to work with device manufacturers to procure equipment that will work on their spectrum, which is often fragmented among different bands or resides on different band classes from on which LTE is currently being deployed. AT&T and Verizon have recently come under fire for using band classes that are not interoperable with the other 700mhz frequencies for which these regional carriers hold licenses, prompting the FCC to look into addressing interoperability concerns. This lack of interoperability would significantly increase the price of a 700mhz LTE device for other smaller carriers. The carriers lack the spectral resources to deploy LTE on other bands without refarming spectrum and affecting their legacy services. The spectrum is unable to be refarmed at this point because the carriers still need to maintain 3G and voice services on those bands to provide acceptable service to their customers.

 

gallery_1_2_3027.jpg

Sprint's Projected LTE Coverage at completion of Network Vision in early 2014.

Enter Sprint, with their nationwide spectrum holdings and flexible Network Vision equipment. With RCA President and CEO Steve Berry pushing members to cooperate on LTE deployments, Sprint is possibly the most attractive partner for regional carriers. Sprint’s Network Vision technology can allow regional carriers to continue providing access to their legacy services while adding LTE to their lineup. Sprint could also enter into an agreement with carriers similar to how Lightsquared was going to partner with Sprint. Sprint could provide the spectrum and equipment to broadcast 1900mhz LTE from the regional carrier’s towers as they upgrade their existing equipment in exchange for usage credits.

 

With spectrum hosting and roaming agreements, Sprint's footprint could look more like the RCA's collective footprint.

gallery_1_2_42017.png

 

A unified RCA, partnering on LTE through network sharing and spectrum hosting arrangements could provide service covering 95% of the United States and give AT&T and Verizon wireless a major competitor. It could also provide access to advanced technology to rural customers who otherwise lack many of the internet connectivity options that those living in urban areas have enjoyed for years.

gallery_1_2_3334.jpg

 

Sources: Wirelessweek (2) Photos courtesy of RCA

  • Like 3


10 Comments


Recommended Comments

I think that it would be a good idea to partner up with the RCA folks for a LTE network sharing agreement. This way Sprint could get more revenue from the LTE network sharing and hopefully gain some more access to PCS spectrum from the regional carriers.

 

Looking from the outside, my biggest concern is that though this is a great idea, a 5x5 LTE carrier is not enough to support Sprint's own postpaid customers let alone allowing more regional carriers to come in. If Sprint can manage to gather enough spectrum to have at least a 10x10 or even better a 15x15 LTE carrier then I think Sprint should go for it.

Share this comment


Link to comment

I wonder if the newly gained areas would be considered roaming or not? Although I never go over 2GB per month on my data card I do have problems with the 300MB cap on roaming and with LTE you could blow through that quickly.

Share this comment


Link to comment

Just remember.... at least theoretically... In the areas that the regionals would use Sprint's 5X5 PCS G Block Spectrum to build coverage, although Sprint would probably recognize it as native coverage, Sprint would not proactively sell coverage in those areas... The capacity limitations would be more accurately measured by looking at the Regional carrier's customer load and adding the 'occasional' Sprint roamer. Should be plenty considering the size of the majority of the regionals.

 

Also, in the markets where Sprint and the ideal Regional partner compete and both sell service, the regional should theoretically own enough spectrum and resources to deploy its own LTE so that in areas with a high concentration of both the regional customers as well as sprint's own native customers, both aren't squatting on the same 5X5 configuration.

 

The other variable is that the regional carrier's own customers venture outside its home footprint from time to time.. and would be Sprint roamers. While this could only worsen the load in places like Disney World, Manhattan, etc, most of the regionals are fairly strict on their customers when they roam... they will reprimand them if the roaming is repeatedly excessive, sometimes even capping or shutting them off after a certain point. Its statistically variable... but not nearly as threatening as what they've been doing to their capacity by selling unlimited 3G to Boost and Virgin customers.

  • Like 6

Share this comment


Link to comment

Maybe Sprint thinks it can offer the native nextel (no CDMA) towers up to some of the Regional carriers and offer to let them take the tower over with Sprint's spectrum and its own operations?

  • Like 2

Share this comment


Link to comment

Excellent insight Jeff. A lot depends on the deal Sprint signs with the partner carriers. I believe you're right that the deals will probably have Sprint's customers seeing native coverage in the "roaming" areas, but Sprint will not sell service in those areas.

  • Like 1

Share this comment


Link to comment

Does anyone have any regional carriers in mind who they think could be a "match made in heaven" for Sprint to work with?

 

USCellular, Cspire, Leap, and Metro come to mind for me... but... Leap and Metro are cash strapped like Sprint, Cspire owns a blanket of 700mhz coverage in all the areas it wishes to service , and USC seems to be wedged pretty far up Verizon's arse when when it comes to roaming... They're all ideal roamers for Sprint's native network, but I have no idea if any of them would want to build and sell LTE with Sprint's spectrum anywhere ?

  • Like 2

Share this comment


Link to comment

It makes perfect sense. Even Verizon with their deep pockets realizes the impracticality of rolling out a brand new network to every corner of the country, hence their LTE in Rural America program. It would behoove Sprint to act on this sooner rather than later, lest they let Verizon (or even AT&T) ink all of the viable partners like they did with Pioneer. Since at&t and VZW don't really want to provide 700MHz interoperability with these smaller carriers, this could be a win-win scenario as the smaller carriers could help Sprint build out in rural areas as well as provide 700MHz roaming and the smaller carriers subscribers could roam on Sprint PCS network when they venture into urban and suburban areas. They can't afford to dilly-dally though.

  • Like 2

Share this comment


Link to comment

I wonder if the newly gained areas would be considered roaming or not? Although I never go over 2GB per month on my data card I do have problems with the 300MB cap on roaming and with LTE you could blow through that quickly.

 

I don't think it would be considered roaming. If Sprint can form an agreement similar with what is happening with WiMax that is. 4G WiMax is not considered roaming but it is Clearwire's network. It would be wise for them to do it that way.

  • Like 1

Share this comment


Link to comment
Does anyone have any regional carriers in mind who they think could be a "match made in heaven" for Sprint to work with? USCellular, Cspire, Leap, and Metro come to mind for me... but... Leap and Metro are cash strapped like Sprint, Cspire owns a blanket of 700mhz coverage in all the areas it wishes to service , and USC seems to be wedged pretty far up Verizon's arse when when it comes to roaming... They're all ideal roamers for Sprint's native network, but I have no idea if any of them would want to build and sell LTE with Sprint's spectrum anywhere ?

 

 

There is a small carrier that sprung up after the Verizon/Alltel take over called Element Mobile in central Wisconsin. I was told that Verizon can’t sell service in this area and Element already has some kind of connection with Sprint using Sprint towers and I think some of the old Alltel towers.

Share this comment


Link to comment
Guest
Add a comment...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

×
×
  • Create New...