SMART Delivers the Future to Rural America

SMART: Small Market Alliance for Rural Transformation

Research has shown that rural consumers have the same needs, desires and demands for mobile broadband services as their metropolitan counterparts.  However, rural carriers have been unable to deliver a 4G LTE mobile broadband experience to their communities.  

Why? Because of their size rural carriers have not had the power to drive an ecosystem for compatible 4G LTE mobile devices, they lack compatible spectrum, and the Tier 1 duopoly has been focused on building their own national footprint leaving the rural carrier with no national reach for 4G service.

NetAmerica Alliance was founded to help rural carriers gain the scale they need to thrive by providing the capabilities, services, infrastructure, programs, and partner relationships which individual carriers would have difficulty providing or building on their own.

We realized that 4G LTE mobile broadband would not become a reality for rural carriers unless we did something bold to solve the rural dilemma.  That dilemma being:  No 4G mobile devices; no compatible spectrum; and no national footprint meant -- no mobile 4G service for rural communities.

We believed that the market was moving faster than the standard regulatory process and that the rural market could not legislate itself out of this dilemma.  We could not stand-by and watch as the rural carriers, to which we have dedicated our company, were losing customers to the duopoly.  There had to be a business solution to the problem and one which did not rely completely on regulatory changes to meet the challenges faced by rural carriers.

NetAmerica knew that success could only be realized if we found a way to allow rural carriers to align with a Tier 1 service provider so they could gain access to the ecosystem they so desperately needed.  We wanted the relationship to be win-win so that the Tier -1 carrier with which we aligned would find equal value in the relationship as would NetAmerica and our Members.

We worked diligently for over two years and architected that solution so that it addressed the needs of our rural carrier Members.  It is called SMART (Small Market Alliance for Rural Transformation) and we are delivering it with SPRINT.

What is SMART?

This ground breaking initiative is a shared network alliance (exclusive to NetAmerica Members) whereby Sprint will provide rural wireless service providers with spectrum, national reach on Sprint’s network, and access to the Sprint mobile device management ecosystem. These three key components have stood in the way of rural carriers being able to provide a viable 4G LTE mobile service offering in their geographies.

In turn, NetAmerica Members will build local 4G LTE mobile broadband networks (Sprint Network Vision Compliant) and will share that network with Sprint.  Sprint will also share its network (nationwide) with NetAmerica Members.   These local wireless networks will use integrated LTE core capability delivered by both Sprint and NetAmerica thereby providing a Tier-1 carrier service experience for rural consumers.

This win-win solution enables rural wireless providers to compete on a level playing field with Verizon and AT&T while enabling Sprint to rapidly and cost effectively extend their network into rural areas of the country.

How does it Work?

Sprint will allow NetAmerica Members access to their device ecosystem will provide up to 54 MHz of 800 MHz and 1900 MHz spectrum for the rural carrier to use and will allow the rural carrier to share the Sprint network nationwide.  The rural carrier will build a local 3G and 4G LTE network and will share it with Sprint in order to provide Sprint customers service when needed.  Sprint will contribute ongoing cash payments to the carrier to help cover some of the network build costs. 

The local network will be built to Sprint Network Vision standards and will be delivering services to rural consumers out of a shared Sprint and NetAmerica core.  That shared core can be viewed as a SMART Cloud delivering both mobile and fixed broadband services.  See the figure below.

What type of carrier might be interested in SMART?

SMART fits the needs of nearly any type of rural carrier.  There are rural carriers which own 700 MHz and AWS spectrum offering 4G LTE fixed service but which may not have a mobility option today.  They would be interested in SMART.

There are existing wireless operators which are looking for ways to expand their footprint but they may not have spectrum in the geographies they would like to enter.  SMART brings them that spectrum and the solution they need to offer service and build out a footprint not covered today. 

There are carriers which may have sold their previous 2G or 3G wireless business and may want to re-establish themselves as a 4G LTE mobile provider or they may own spectrum and were thinking about selling it since they thought they “could not compete”.  SMART changes all that and provides those carriers with what they need. 

And there are rural wireline carriers which may not have purchased spectrum, were not previously in the wireless business but whose customers demand a mobile solution.  SMART arms them with what they need to establish that business and compete.

The following illustrates the opportunities for SMART

Why is SMART Important?

SMART is a win-win relationship for Sprint and for NetAmerica’s rural carrier Members.  Sprint and NetAmerica are arming the rural carrier to compete while providing Sprint extended network reach to rural America through the shared network relationship.  Most importantly, rural consumers can live and work where they choose, without compromise with the confidence that they can be served by their preferred local rural provider without having to sacrifice a Tier1 carrier service experience today and into the future.

SMART is delivering and protecting the future for rural service providers and the communities they serve.