Clearwire signed up with the Rural
Cellular Association (RCA) today, citing “many of the same advocacy
concerns” as the trade group’s members.
The WiMAX operator is one of a number of
larger wireless providers over the past year to join the RCA, which has
positioned itself as willing to take on AT&T and Verizon Wireless.
“The many issues facing our
business, including competitive balance, the spectrum crisis and the rapidly
growing consumer demand for mobile broadband all require the type of
cooperation and solutions that Clearwire is well positioned to provide,”
Don Stroberg, Clearwire’s senior vice president of strategic partnerships and
wholesale, said in a statement. “We look forward to working with our
fellow members and the RCA leadership on these and other key issues in the
months and years ahead.”
The company is also a member of CTIA, where its CEO holds a position on the board of directors.
Clearwire’s membership in the RCA comes
as it is looking for additional wholesale customers for its pending TD-LTE
service. Cricket and Sprint are the only two providers so far signed up for the
network, which will supplement capacity for their own LTE networks in high-traffic
“hotzones” like major metropolitan areas.
Clearwire will “actively seek new
opportunities to serve the needs of other 4G providers,” CEO Erik Prusch
said when its deal with Cricket was announced in March. The first 5,000 LTE
base stations are expected to be up by mid-2013.
Many of the RCA’s members have 700 MHz
spectrum for LTE, but have held off on deployment because of problems obtaining
equipment and smartphones for their band class, which is different than that of
AT&T and Verizon.
Sprint joined the RCA last spring
shortly after AT&T announced its merger with T-Mobile USA, a transaction
Sprint opposed. RCA became one of the most vocal opponents to the deal, arguing
it would harm competition by creating a veritable “duopoly” between
AT&T and Verizon Wireless.
An indication of changes in the
industry, T-Mobile itself signed up for the RCA in March, saying it shared the
group’s goal of “promoting a healthy, competitive wireless industry.”
Cricket Communications also added itself to the RCA’s ranks this spring.
RCA advocates on a number of issues that
conflict with the interests of AT&T and Verizon, such as interoperability
in the 700 MHz band and data roaming. It is also pushing the FCC to impose
conditions on Verizon’s AWS purchase but has not asked the commission to bar
the deal completely.
The group recently dropped its push to
end handset exclusivity deals after a number of its rural members landed the
iPhone, an issue that had been a sore spot for regional providers during
AT&T’s exclusive contract with Apple.