Wireless Service Remains a Priority For Rural Providers Despite Roaming Agreements, Competition Concerns

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

Arlington, Va. (December 10, 2014)—More of the nation’s small, independent telecommunications providers are planning to begin offering wireless service as part of continuing efforts to round out their communications offerings to consumers, but competition and negotiating roaming agreements with large national carriers continue to pose significant challenges, according to a new survey by NTCA–The Rural Broadband Association.

The association’s “2014 Wireless Survey Report” found that 66% of respondents are providing wireless service to their customers. Eighty percent of those providing wireless service offer fixed broadband 48% mobile voice, 41% mobile broadband and 23% fixed voice. Fifty-one percent of survey respondents indicated that they hold at least one wireless license below 2.3 GHz; 20% hold at least one license above 2.3 GHz. Thirty-five percent of survey respondents not currently offering wireless service are considering doing so. 

However, survey respondents indicated that pressures created by national carriers and the ability to negotiate roaming agreements with such carriers are among the most significant challenges affecting smaller competitors. Specifically, 73% of all respondents indicated that competition from nationwide carriers was their greatest concern, with 45% also citing the ability to negotiate roaming agreements.

“Small wireless providers have little leverage in negotiating roaming agreements with larger carriers, as nearly half of survey respondents indicated that obtaining roaming agreements remains an ongoing concern,” said NTCA Economist Rick Schadelbauer. “Many of those who are able to enter into an agreement end up paying the price—approximately one-third of survey respondents indicated they pay more for roaming than they themselves are paid.”

NTCA’s wireless survey was conducted in the fall of 2014. More than 100 NTCA member companies participated. 

The full survey report is available here.

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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.