Wireless Service Continues To Be a Priority for Rural Providers Despite Competition Concerns, Difficulty Securing Spectrum

For Immediate Release
Contact: Hillary Crowder, 703-351-2086, hcrowder@ntca.org

Arlington, Va. (January 16, 2014) – The nation’s small, independent telecommunications providers continue to make wireless service a top priority, but competition with large national carriers and difficulties securing financing and spectrum for those projects pose significant challenges, according to a new survey by NTCA–The Rural Broadband Association.

The association’s “2013 Wireless Survey Report” found that 60% of respondents are providing wireless service to their customers. Eighty-two percent of those providing wireless service offer fixed broadband, 49% provide mobile voice, 43% provide mobile broadband and 29% provide fixed voice services.

However, the majority of respondents reported that while investment in wireless services continues to be a priority, the ability to compete with national carriers for potential customers remains a top concern. Seventy-three percent of all respondents indicated that competition from nationwide carriers is a significant concern in providing wireless services, followed by the ability to make necessary investments, handset/equipment availability and the ability to obtain spectrum at auction.

Obtaining spectrum is a common concern among small, rural wireless communications providers, which lack the scope of operations and buying power to bid for large blocks at auction. Just over two-thirds of respondents to the 2013 survey that are currently providing wireless service indicated they hold at least one spectrum license, but the majority of respondents using wireless spectrum for backhaul said it will not be adequate to meet forecasted future needs.

“Due to their size and scale of operations, small wireless carriers are at an extreme disadvantage when competing with larger carriers for potential customers,” said NTCA Economist Rick Schadelbauer. “This disadvantage can be lessened, to some extent, by rules that mandate fairness in negotiating roaming agreements, or that give smaller entities a realistic opportunity to compete for and obtain spectrum at auction. It is critical that these and other important safeguards continue to allow small providers to do what they do best: provide high-quality service to customers in the most remote areas of our country.”

 NTCA’s wireless survey was conducted in the fall of 2013. More than 100 NTCA member companies participated.

The full survey report is available here.


NTCA–The Rural Broadband Association is the premier association representing nearly 900 independent, community-based telecommunications companies that are leading innovation in rural and small-town America. NTCA advocates on behalf of its members in the legislative and regulatory arenas, and it provides training and development; publications and industry events; and an array of employee benefit programs. In an era of exploding technology, deregulation and marketplace competition, NTCA’s members are leading the IP evolution for rural consumers, delivering technologies that make rural communities vibrant places in which to live and do business. Because of their efforts, rural America is fertile ground for innovation in economic development and commerce, education, health care, government services, security and smart energy use. Visit us at www.ntca.org.