Rural Carriers Struggle to Provide Wireless Services

  • Broadband Penetration
  • Wireless
ARLINGTON, VA - Rural carriers may be the wireless underdogs, but they continue to offer advanced services to their customers, according to a new survey by the National Telecommunications Cooperative Association (NTCA). The NTCA's 2011 Wireless Survey Report finds that rural local exchange carriers that provide wireless services to their customers serve an average of 4,400 wireless subscribers with an average of 35 cell sites.

Their greatest concerns include:

  • Their ability to compete with national carriers (75 percent).


  • Handset/equipment availability (61 percent).



  • Their ability to make necessary investments to be able to offer the latest services (60 percent).


  • Their ability to negotiate roaming agreements with national carriers (55 percent).



  • Their ability to obtain spectrum at auction (53 percent).


  • Their ability to obtain financing for wireless projects (33 percent).


  • Backhaul capacity/cost (24 percent).


  • Despite their small size, 87 percent of rural local exchange carriers offer wireless caller ID; 84 percent offer voice mail; 77 percent offer unlimited local calling, family plans and text messaging; 74 percent offer free long distance and Internet access; and 68 percent offer three-way calling and email.

    Rural local exchange carriers have dedicated substantial resources to providing wireless service to their customers, according to the NTCA. Survey respondents reported an average total (cumulative) investment of $5.61 million in facilities and $665,000 in spectrum. They reported the intent to offer their customers a wide variety of new services over the next 12-18 month period, including fixed and mobile data, VoIP, WiMAX and 700 MHz service.

    Conducted in the spring of 2011, the survey collected data from NTCA member companies about their efforts in providing wireless services to their members/customers. Responses were received from 127 companies in 35 states, for a 25 percent response rate.

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