LAS VEGAS – A relative new entrant into the mobile space, Hays, Kan.-based Nex-Tech Wireless has established itself as an entrenched partner to the Rural Cellular Association as well as across the wireless industry. Nex-Tech CEO Johnie Johnson is an example of that currently serving in various capacities on the boards of both RCA and CTIA.
This has allowed Johnson to provide some leadership for fellow RCA members as well as a rural perspective at CTIA on issues impacting the industry. Some of those significant issues for rural carriers include the availability of roaming services as well as Universal Service Fund support.
Johnson noted that while the carrier has around 50 roaming agreements – including a deal with Sprint Nextel Corp. – that allows the carrier to provide nationwide coverage for its customers, the recent roaming mandate from the Federal Communications Commission should help the carrier further that reach at hopefully a lower cost. Johnson was quick to tip his hat to RCA’s leadership in getting support for that initiative that has been working its way around the FCC for several years.
While the FCC ruling was related only to 3G data services, Johnson said he hoped it would pave the way for a ruling in regards to 4G services as well.
Nex-Tech is also currently a recipient of often contentious USF support, a current government program that many want to see reformed. Johnson noted that Nex-Tech has used those funds to build out more than 250 cell towers in areas where he admits covers more coyotes than people, adding that the carrier was a “poster child” for the program.
While the notion of reforming USF has been around for years, a plan for such an initiative has yet to find support. Many want to see the funds moved exclusively to wireless operations as an effective means of providing last mile coverage for people living in remote communities. However, landline providers argue that they should also continue to have access to the funds as they are currently serving such high cost, low return areas.
Johnson noted that while he was in support of USF reform, that support would only be for neutral and fair reform to all parties involved.
“We invest that money and provide that lifeline for many people in rural Kansas,” Johnson explained. “Without USF, I am not sure we would still be in business. The population is sparse in that area and the return on investment and economies of scale are just not there in rural Kansas.”