The NetAmerica Alliance, an organization launched with the goal of helping rural network operators gain economies of scale in making 4G deployments, has added two new members—Peoples Telephone Cooperative of Quitman, Tex. and Etex Telephone Cooperative of Gilmer, Tex.

When NetAmerica was announced earlier this year,  the organization said it had four rural carrier members representing 1 million pops.

NetAmerica’s goal is to give member rural network operators improved buying power, nationwide branding, 24/7 network monitoring, 4G core network elements and other services. In March the company announced a deal with Ericsson to supply LTE radio equipment and evolved packet core infrastructure for rural network operator members.

According to a NetAmerica press release issued today, Peoples Telephone was a holder of spectrum suitable for 4G services but Etex was not. Through what NetAmerica calls a “license development program” Etex obtained a spectrum license from Peoples.

“Part of the benefit of joining the alliance is the ability to work in partnership with other carriers who may own license rights in certain geographies, but may not be interested in developing those specific areas themselves,” said Danny Keller, general manager of Etex, in today’s announcement. “We acquired the license rights from Peoples and are now able to provide our customers advanced 4G services. It is a win-win for all those involved and it would not have been possible without NetAmerica.”

But it appears that Peoples retained some of its spectrum holdings because the company’s general manager Robbie Allen is quoted in the release saying, “We knew that it was imperative for us to have a 4G solution for our customers and NetAmerica was the only way to make that a reality,” said Allen. “There was no other way to gain the buying power, economies of scale or national reach without the alliance. The model and timing are a perfect fit.”

The two new participants will increase NetAmerica’s population coverage by 650,000 and increase geographical coverage by more than 7500 square miles.

NetAmerica is not the only organization working with rural network operators to deploy 4G. Verizon’s LTE in Rural America has some similar goals. That program is more restrictive, however, as Verizon is only interested in working with carriers serving areas where Verizon does not already have its own 3G network.


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10 thoughts on “NetAmerica Reveals Two Partners, Begins Building Rural 4G Footprint

  1. Another effort to get LTE going outside the Top 10 metro areas of the U.S., and like Verizon's LTE in Rural America, not one single dime has been spent in actual construction yet. I thought LTE, with its 800 mhz spectrum's far-reaching capabilities was going to be the cure-all for getting LTE out into the country. Wake me when something actually happens.

  2. You have to start somewhere. 4G is still very immature. The rural progress seems encouraging, when put into context of past wireless innovation. Have some patience.

  3. I have had patience. AT&T has held a license for spectrum to cover my town for 22 years and has NEVER built anything to cover it. EVERY town in this county, large or small, has an AT&T cell site in it but this one!

    Same thing with Verizon. Verizon has never built anything to cover over half of Oklahoma, even though they hold licenses for the entire state. Verizon has a deal with Pioneer Cellular, the local CDMA provider who blankets the entire area, for their LTE in Rural America program. Pioneer was the first to sign up way back last October. To date there have been no announcements or construction that has taken place, other than the fact they have joined the program.

    This area IS covered by Pioneer and Sprint on the CDMA side and CellularOne and T-Mobile on the GSM side. Those companies got licenses and DID make investment and I am happy to support them, but they are all minor players in the cellphone business and none of them have the iPhone or the really cool latest Android phones, which everyone, including myself, wants, but cannot use here.

    1. Given your situation, I would think you would applaud the efforts of NetAmerica and other rural 4G initiatives. Your scenario is exactly the situation these companies are trying to resolve – get 4G to areas that normally would not get it because large national carriers don't have an interest in those markets. While it's still early and I can appreciate your frustration, I do see positive momentum. Let's keep our fingers crossed.

    2. You can get the iPhone unlocked now, and use it on TMo or CellOne, depending on whether CellOne has 3G in your area and whether you want to use said 3G.

      Additionally, to say that neither T-Mobile nor Sprint have any of the coolest Android phones is…a stretch…

  4. 2 key items need to be addressed if this all is to work:
    1.They need to convince FCC to force AT&T and VZW to provide cost effective roaming agreements.
    2. Smartphone Vendors need to commit to provide multi-mode devices cost effectively that will work across multiple networks.

  5. When the 4G/LTE technology was first introduced, it's main feature was said to be the value of its frequency. The 700 mhz bands are FAR more efficient than the traditional cellphone frequencies used today. Instead of each tower only covering a 4-square block area, with LTE you could cover entire counties with service using only one tower in most instances, depending on terrain. This was touted as finally being the method that WOULD get the major companies to the point where they could actually offer true nationwide service.

    But as we can see, they are only introducing the service in those same metropolitan areas, and not including any outside territory at all. That's fine to a certain extent, that's where the vast majority of their paying customers are, but it completely ignores the biggest selling point they made to the FCC when they came up with 4G/LTE technology and paid these huge amounts for spectrum all over the country that they are now sitting on and have no plans to ever utilize.

    Verizon's entire LTE in Rural American scheme rests on the statement they made that it covers areas where they own spectrum, sometimes owning it for years and years, keeping anyone else from building anything, yet have NO plans to ever build a system to cover it. Why did they buy it and why did the FCC allow them to buy it in the first place if they have no plans to cover it? Is it just to get someone else, their "affiliates" to actually spend the money to build these systems so they don't have to make an investment yet get the benefits from it?

    Sorry to be so long-winded, but the fact the FCC has allowed these companies to buy and then sit on spectrum while publicly saying they have NO intentions of EVER covering it with service just irks me to no end! And this while small companies are actually out here spending their money to actually DO something, and are actually making money at it, so no one can tell me there isn't money to be made in these markets just because they are smaller than New York or LA.

  6. They are sitting on it because the rules allow them to do so. When the FCC (BTW, the FCC did not "come up with 4G/LTE technology", the market did) auctions the spectrum, it includes market areas with both urban and rural territory. The rules also say that the winners of the auction have build out requirements based on population, not geography. So the carriers build out the urban area, meet the build out requirement, and ignore the rural markets. It's all about where they make the quickest return, while fulfilling the spectrum leasing requirements.

    This is a resource and priority question. Why would any carrier devote resources to markets with less opportunity to gain a return? Tier 1 carriers can't even keep up with the demand of the urban market – have you tried using your iPhone on AT&T's network in New York City or San Francisco lately – why would they pull their resources away from that and build out territory which won't give them as much return? I see rural carriers making these same decisions all the time. In many rural FTTH build, rural carriers are building the towns where they have population density and not building their more rural areas. Why? Because it doesn't make sense to do so.

  7. And yet there are dozens of "rural carriers" all over the country that ARE building out those smaller and rural areas and ARE making money at it, so that argument doesn't really wash at all. Those carriers would build out more of those rural areas, but in a lot of cases they can't do it because the big guys are sitting on that spectrum you say is not profitable to build, thus keeping the little guys from benefiting from it. It works both ways but you can't have it both ways.

    If a carrier declares that it has no intention of building out an area where it holds a license, no matter whether it is urban or rural, then that license should go back to an "open" status, available for purchase by whoever DOES intend to build it out, simple as that.

    It makes no difference at all who came up with 3G/4G/LTE-whatever technology at all, that's neither here nor there.

    I have been to San Francisco, and yes, my iPhone (which I cannot use here at home because AT&T won't build a site here even though a small regional GSM carrier CelularOne DOES have a site here and the retailer is making money hand over fist selling it) did not work very well there. But I also know that AT&T would fix the problems or at least work on them if the City of San Francisco would let them put up enough towers to make it work, but they won't.

    Same thing in New York City, you would need a cell site on every street corner in the city for a system to work as it should, but that isn't gonna happen. Out here in the "middle of nowhere" as you put it there are NO regulations as to where or how many cell phone towers you want to put up. People are just glad to have access to the service, because in some cases it could mean the difference between life and death, instead of yammering in line at McDonalds about who did what to who last night.

  8. I'm not arguing your point, but you're missing mine. I agree that rural carriers are better equipped, able, and willing to serve those rural markets. But the rules, as they are constituted today, allow this problem to continue.

    My only point is don't get mad at the larger carriers who choose to devote their resources in places that they feel will give them a better return — instead get mad at the FCC who set up the auction and spectrum rules that allow these big carriers to serve the urban markets alone and meet the build out requirements, which leave rural markets underserved.

    They continue to auction spectrum off in this way, and the issue you discuss won't be fixed until they do it differently. You say "SIMPLE AS THAT." But the reality is, it's not that simple. You have to redo the system, OR persuade those national carriers to lease/partition their spectrum to rural partners, when they have little economic incentive to do so. Spectrum value is nice for their balance sheets.

    My argument is not favoring one position over the other, it's just stating the facts.

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