The National Telecommunications Cooperative Association (NTCA) published their annual NTCA Wireless Survey, revealing stepped up activity for rural carriers in the wireless space. NTCA represents the interests of 580 small rural ILECs, both cooperative and commercial. Nearly 50% of their members have between 1,000 and 5,000 access lines.

According to NTCA survey results, more than 75% of rural ILEC members offer some form of wireless service, although most of that (61%) is in the form of fixed wireless services. Over half (54%) offer mobile services of some form, while 32% currently offer mobile broadband services.

Among wireless concerns, respondents’ cited a “…growing concern with the ability to obtain spectrum at auction: it ranked as the second most commonly-cited concern in this year’s survey and was fourth in 2008,” NTCA said in a press release.

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Other survey results of note include:

  • Survey respondents serve an average of 7,300 wireless subscribers with an average of 42 cell sites.
  • The average customer’s monthly wireless bill is between $40 and $60, and the typical customer uses more than 1,400 minutes monthly.
  • Sixty-four percent of survey respondents indicated that they currently hold at least one wireless license below 2.3 GHz. Fifty-eight percent of those who hold a license below 2.3 GHz have a 700 MHz license, 35% a PCS license, 34% AWS, 24% cellular, and 17% paging.
  • Thirty-three percent of the respondents not currently offering wireless service indicated they are considering doing so. Forty-four percent have previously considered offering wireless service and deemed it not feasible, while 23% have never considered wireless.
  • Asked which wireless CMRS technologies their company has deployed with, 50% percent of survey respondents indicated GSM service, 29% CDMA 1X, 25% CDMA EVDO, and 7% each TDMA and UMTS/WCDMA.
  • Fifty-five percent of those survey respondents who have plans to deploy next generation technology said that they would be deploying LTE. Twenty percent indicated their next deployment would be UMTS/WCDMA, 15% WiMax 802.16e, and 5% each GSM, CDMA EVDO and pre-WiMax.

Among its survey conclusions, NTCA is advocating for a “continued focus on policies that make spectrum more readily available to small, rural carriers.”

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