Editor’s Note: With 2014 now upon us, RCR Wireless News has gathered predictions from leading industry analysts and executives on what they expect to see in the new year.
In 2013, we saw the incumbents beginning to roll out or make progress in planning LTE roll outs to smaller towns and cities in rural America. This will catch fire in 2014, with many more rural communities realizing the benefits of LTE. Banking on its experience in the rural market, Globecomm predicts that a significant number of rural carriers will implement LTE – whether as a part of a top tier carrier program, building their own network or partnering with a hosted provider to leverage technology and expertise while saving capital.
While rural areas may not continue to be overlooked by the big guys in 2014, rural carriers will need to be smarter to deal with the sophisticated requirements that LTE brings.
Carriers’ challenges will continue to include:
–700 MHz and other spectrum license requirements.
–Implementing policy and quality of service intelligence into their network services.
–Procuring the “must-have” devices.
–Meeting backhaul capacity demand.
–Expanding services to enterprises.
While there are several options to achieving an LTE network, each rural carrier will need to do their homework to determine if they can go it alone or it will make more sense to invest in a partner.
Tier-three regulatory challenges
Tier-three U.S. carriers will continue to face their share of challenges in 2014. Mobility Fund Phase II support will be announced and those wireless carriers not receiving support will need to re-evaluate a strategy that doesn’t rely on these funds. Data roaming rates will continue to fall and will we will see some operators offering data on a tiered basis. In addition, spectrum allocation and usage will continue to be a major concern as these carriers rollout LTE in larger numbers.
The good news is that small carriers know that now is the time to reinvent themselves and adapt to change where possible. As subscribers continue to increase their data consumption, carriers must introduce new data pricing models in an attempt to shift their pricing paradigms to adapt to this trend. In 2014, we will see more pricing models being introduced by carriers across America. We will also see smaller rural wireless carriers working together as market consolidation continues.
We know that the large and small carriers are the ones that have made it through 2013. The future of the tier-three carrier will still depend on the outcome of the spectrum crunch. If small carriers can use their spectrum licenses wisely and also compete in upcoming spectrum auctions, their future will look brighter.