Sprint has signed up its first dozen rural partners for the joint LTE roaming consortium it announced back in March.
Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S), in conjunction with the NetAmerica Alliance LLC and Competitive Carriers Association, said in March that it would form low-cost roaming agreements with rural wireless operators that lack the funding, spectrum, and devices to deploy LTE. (See Sprint Joins Forces With Rural America on LTE.)
By doing so, it would ostensibly help accelerate the availability of 4G networks in rural America, increase competition, and expand Sprint's own footprint in areas where it lacks coverage. The mutual benefits won it a spot on Light Reading's Leading Lights short list for Best Dealmaker of 2014. (See Leading Lights Finalists 2014: Best Deal Maker).
The program, Small Market Alliance for Rural Transformation (SMART), which already included a roaming deal with Ntelos Inc. (Nasdaq: NTLO), now adds CCA members Southern Communications Services Inc. , C Spire , Nex-Tech Wireless , SI Wireless dba MobileNation, Inland Cellular, Illinois Valley Cellular, Carolina West Wireless, James Valley Telecommunications, VTel Wireless, and Phoenix Wireless.
NetAmerica says it has completed preliminary agreements with 14 companies and is in talks with around 40 more in 12 states.
Masayoshi Son, chairman and CEO of Sprint's parent SoftBank Corp. , said at the CCA show back in March that he'd help fund rural America's LTE deployments if need be. However, Sprint didn't reveal any financial terms with its first dozen participants. (See Rural Carriers: SoftBank Will Fund Your LTE.)
One name missing from the list is T-Mobile US Inc. , Sprint's acquisition target. As a CCA member that also lacks rural LTE coverage, T-Mobile is a likely candidate to join. Even if did merge with Sprint, they wouldn't have a sufficient rural footprint on their own. (See Sprint & T-Mobile: A Tale of Two Maps.)
— Sarah Reedy, Senior Editor, Light Reading