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December 12, 2023
More broadband-mobile bundles will be coming to rural America.
The NTCA – The Rural Broadband Association (NTCA) and the National Rural Telecommunications Cooperative (NRTC) said Monday they've struck a "collaboration" that will pave the way for NRTC to offer a "special" mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) exclusively to NTCA members.
NTCA CEO Shirley Bloomfield and NRTC CEO Tim Bryan announced the initiative today during a webinar for NTCA members, according to the groups.
Specifics about this collaboration are scarce, but the organizations noted that NRTC will provide NTCA members with "exclusive access to special financing for devices," along with an "activation credit" for new mobile customers and marketing support to promote bundles that include mobile services.
They added that up-front business startup fees will also be waived for NTCA's membership, which spans about 850 rural broadband providers that serve subscribers ranging from fewer than 100 to more than 50,000.
Under the collaboration, NRTC said it also will offer NTCA members access to provisioning, billing, e-commerce, and customer and logistics support to help streamline their ability to offer mobile as part of a bundle or as a standalone service.
Light Reading has requested more details about the new program, including vendor selections for various elements of the MVNO solution, whether the collaboration will result in the selection of a mobile network partner such as AT&T, T-Mobile or Verizon, and when they expect to make this new offering available to NTCA members for trial and commercial deployments.
The NRTC's website dedicated to an offering called NRTC Mobile Solutions notes that the organization has offered its members an MVNO model "for decades."
Update: As of December 13, NTCA and NRTC officials haven't shed any additional light on their new agreement, including details on which national mobile operator's network will be used for the collaboration between the organizations.
But, as noted this week by Telecompetitor, this agreement ties into the NRTC's 2006 acquisition of Telispire, an MVNO with postpaid and prepaid offerings and "turnkey" capabilities. Telispire notes on its web site that also operates a backoffice system called "Phoenix" that enables wireless provisioning, billing services, customer support and logistics solutions.
The NRTC mobile site also notes that its members get access to "in-demand" mobile devices at wholesale prices "without huge volume requirements," along with access to a "turnkey" back-office platform that covers the wireless lifecycle, including a web-based point of activation and end-user invoice creation. It also references access to "competitive plans" for customers and guaranteed revenue with one monthly cost per subscriber.
The NRTC's site further references the ability to support both postpaid and prepaid mobile services, and access to turn-key campaigns involving multiple marketing elements, including print ads, in-store point of purchase materials, radio scripts, TV spots, and outdoor and direct mail.
"We're thrilled to work with NTCA to offer a mobile offering that’s turnkey and financially viable for members to implement and operate, enables them to expand their service offerings, and strengthens their brand," Bryan said in a statement.
NCTC also has MVNO option
The NTCA-NRTC collaboration fits a trend as some US broadband operators seek ways to bring mobile to the bundle.
The agreement also serves as an answer of sorts to an MVNO initiative from the National Content & Technology Cooperative (NCTC) that is based on agreements with Reach and AT&T.
The NCTC is making that option available to hundreds of small and midsized cable operator members. Fiber network provider Allo Communications is an early adopter of the NCTC MVNO agreement and intends to launch mobile services in the first quarter of 2024.
Among midsized broadband service providers, WideOpenWest (WOW) has struck out on its own, forging a deal with Reach that relies on the T-Mobile network. However, WOW has yet to announce any mobile subscriber results from that offering since introducing it in mid-2022.
Senior Editor, Light Reading
Baumgartner also served as Site Editor for Light Reading Cable from 2007-2013. In between his two stints at Light Reading, he led tech coverage for Multichannel News and was a regular contributor to Broadcasting + Cable. Baumgartner was named to the 2018 class of the Cable TV Pioneers.
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