Bringing Rural Americans into the Telecom Fold

Carl Weinschenk
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The rollout of telecommunications technologies by nature starts in neighborhoods where the most likely customers live. After years of development, carriers and their investors naturally want to start making money sooner rather than later.

That leaves rural folks out in the cold. This was an especially thorny issue when the world was mostly wired. Building out networks in rural areas where there are comparatively few potential subscribers would be altruistic, but good deeds don’t show up on balance sheets.

The emergence of advanced airborne telecommunications platforms, from white space to satellite to LTE and eventually 5G, suggests that this challenge can be mitigated. It simply is easier to reach the hinterlands by air than it is by laying cables through mountains and under rivers.

There are signs that this common sense idea is playing out in the real world. This week, for instance, Sprint, the NetAmerica Alliance and the Competitive Carriers Association have entered an agreement that could end up helping people living in rural areas. According to WirelessWeek, small rural operators will get help in getting up to LTE speed. They, in turn, will enter roaming agreements with Sprint. The story suggests (not in so many words, of course) that the smaller companies are being asked to join the club:

For its part, Sprint is offering up access to its network and some of its 800 MHz and 1900 MHz spectrum in certain markets. In addition, starting January 2015, Sprint will begin rolling out handsets that support Band 12 in the lower 700 MHz spectrum block in which many smaller carriers either hold licenses or currently deploy LTE. This will help open up an LTE device ecosystem for smaller carriers and give them more incentive to build LTE networks.

Another illustration of the power of wireless to put more citizens on more equal footing is an announcement this week of new LTE markets. It just fades into the background somewhat because it is so similar to others that are made on an almost daily basis by carriers. Droid Life has the list, which includes such out-of-the-way spots as Tye, Texas and Norfolk and Lisbon, NY. The reality is that LTE is quickly becoming ubiquitous.

The satellite folks want to get into the act as well. Late last month, according to ExtremeTech, The Federal Communications Commission issued a notice saying that a Dish Network subsidiary had won H block spectrum licenses across the U.S. Writer Neal Gompa is pretty sure where the company is headed:

With all of this, Dish has huge potential to become a massive disruptor in mobile broadband, fixed broadband, and the pay-TV markets. For once, it’s a fairly exciting time to be a rural American!

The best news for residents of rural areas is that several platforms are vying for their attention. The technology seems to be evolving to the point that the old barriers will begin to fade.

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Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post
Mar 31, 2014 2:02 AM David Hoffman David Hoffman  says:
It is great that LTE is being expanded, but it should not to be considered an affordable solution to the lack of wireline access. It is a complementary technology. The cost to the ecd user is at least 10 times as much per byte transferred when compared to FTTH or FTTN systems. Reply

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