Smaller US Networks Catching Up with Larger Competitors - but Challenges Remain
Members of the USA trade association for smaller mobile networks, the CCA are generally smaller in scale with correspondingly fewer resources than their larger counterparts, they are aggressively investing in their networks in order to be able to offer subscribers a choice with respect to advanced 4G LTE services. The survey -- carried out by Exalt Communications -- also reveals that work still remains, especially with respect to the transition to all-IP networks and backhaul technology.
Some of the key issues impacting the ability of members to compete in the national mobile operator market include automatic data roaming, interoperability throughout the 700 MHz spectrum, Universal Service Fund reform, spectrum policy and licensing issues, and handset exclusivity.
Exalt commissioned the blind survey of CCA members in advance of the association's yearly conference in September in order to determine attitudes and opinions related to key competitive issues. Approximately 21 percent of the organization's total membership responded. Exalt found that many CCA members still face obstacles with respect to their efforts to compete with the largest nationwide carriers.
Among the key findings:
- 50 percent of respondents reported that they expect TDM backhaul to remain on their networks for the next two to five years or beyond, necessitating investment in technology capable of carrying both native TDM and IP traffic across their networks
- Just 15 percent of respondents have employed microwave solutions for backhaul, with 70 percent reporting that they use fiber connections to backhaul data - a relatively expensive option not available in all geographic areas
- 15 percent primarily employ legacy technology in the form of T1 lines for backhaul
Overall, survey respondents indicated they are facing trends that are rapidly transforming their networks. Chief among these is the migration from TDM to IP networks in order to accommodate increasing data traffic resulting from an expected surge in the number of smartphones and other devices on their networks, and the resulting uptake in mobile broadband data services. The availability of cost effective, next-generation access and backhaul technologies ensures that competitive carriers can answer these challenges and provide the coverage and types of services commensurate with their larger competitors.
Among the survey's other findings:
- 90 percent of survey respondents reported that they are either in the process of implementing LTE or will be doing so in the next 12 - 24 months
- 55 percent of respondents purchased 700 MHz wireless spectrum in order build out their 4G LTE networks
- 70 percent of respondents indicated that the continued availability of spectrum for backhaul transport is either critical or extremely important.
"The existence of an organization like the CCA ensures that customers living outside of major metropolitan areas have access to the same level and quality of services as those served by the largest mobile service providers," said Greg Gum, Exalt senior vice president of marketing and business development. "CCA member companies have made and are continuing to make major strides in their efforts to offer services on par with the major mobile operators, and we support those efforts by providing cost-efficient, robust wireless microwave backhaul solutions to carry their TDM and Ethernet traffic reliably across their coverage areas."