LIVE FROM CCA ANNUAL CONVENTION, ORLANDO, FLORIDA: Chief executives from four regional US operators reiterated fears a merger between Sprint and T-Mobile US could jeopardise the future of their nationwide roaming agreements with the operators, ultimately raising costs and making it more difficult for them to turn a profit.
During a keynote panel, Patrick Riordan (pictured, centre), CEO of Wisconsin-based operator Cellcom, said many regional operators feel Sprint is an easier company to work with than T-Mobile. But Bluegrass Cellular CEO Ron Smith (pictured, second from right) added regional players are worried that following the merger, the operator will adopt a position that makes it harder for smaller players to lock in competitive roaming rates.
Michael Prior (pictured, second from left), CEO of telecoms provider ATN International, explained part of the problem is that “all the national carriers look at regional carriers mainly as a cost to control.”
“When you’re large and you get larger it’s harder to have individual, customised relationships so there’s a natural movement away from partnering”.
Prior continued rural operators can help secure their future by reframing their roaming arrangements with tier-one players as a boon rather than a burden.
“I do think the national carriers need to partner. It’s kind of crazy for them to spend a lot of money in most of the areas we’re in when they have to go early on all the big technology bets…but presenting that offer in a way that’s compelling for national carriers is easier said than done.”
Similar concerns were voiced by regional operator CTOs in a separate panel.
Sprint VP of Network Development and Engineering Jay Bluhm, who participated in the session, said he couldn’t address future roaming agreements, but noted there is a way to overcome interoperability hurdles which make roaming more difficult.
“The path to actually getting that simpler is evolution to VoLTE and getting off of GSM and CDMA,” he said. “All of the carriers have to move to VoLTE, and once you get there those historical interoperability concerns are greatly reduced.”Subscribe to our daily newsletter Back