When Rural Becomes Competitive

David Byrd : Byrd's Eye View
David Byrd
Chief Marketing Officer for ANPI

When Rural Becomes Competitive

The Rural Cellular Association (RCA) has renamed itself the Competitive Carrier Association to create greater synergies to fight AT&T ad Verizon, the two largest wireless carriers in the US. Whereas the RCA saw its initial charter as promoting the interest of small regional wireless carriers, the market has been defined by consolidation. This changed the landscape from wireless carriers categorized as regional and geographically limited in size and scope to nationwide.

When I was with Ericsson in the early 1980s is was very important for carriers to cooperate with roaming agreements and device interoperability. Today, AT&T and Verizon are so much larger than their competitors that they have sufficient reach to not require the same level of cooperation and coopetition. Sprint Nextel realized this after AT&T attempted to purchase T-Mobile and create the largest wireless carrier in the country. To understand the magnitude of the dominance of AT&T and Verizon, note that together they represent 70 percent of the wireless market with 105.2 million and 111.3 million subscribers respectively. Alone, each has more subscribers than all other competitors combined. This has motivated both Sprint Nextel and T-Mobile to join forces with the RCA to preserve a competitive wireless environment. Hence the name change to Competitive Carrier Association (CCA).

The CCA will represent the rural, regional and now smaller nationwide carriers across a broader range of issues affecting all of its members. It will strengthen the competitive wireless ecosystem improving device availability and technology advancement.

Steven Berry is the CEO of CCA with the new charter of bringing these previously disparate wireless carriers together. Berry is quoted as saying, "It's really a matter of survival for these companies. Whether they are a small carrier or a carrier like Sprint selling a national product, they are still competing with AT&T and Verizon Wireless. And what they all have in common is the need to promote and support common policies that reflect their needs as competitive carriers."

Berry has a large task ahead of him. As AT&T and Verizon continue to grow and expand their dominant position. Sprit Nextel with 56 million subscribers and T-Mobile with 33.6 million add much needed heft to the lobbying group. We will watch with interest the activity of the new CCA.

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