I recently had the opportunity to represent ShareTracker at the Competitive Carriers Association (CCA) Mobile Carrier Show in Denver #MCS2019. Despite the threat of bad weather, the show proved to be a fantastic event. The topics included some of the most important challenges facing regional carriers. CCA began as a regional wireless show devoted to rural and regional carriers but became increasingly influenced by T-Mobile and Sprint. Due to the merger discussion around the two, Sprint’s presence at the show was minor compared to T-Mobile. Both Ericsson and Nokia jumped at the chance to pick up the visibility slack and were a significant presence.
- 5G: Much of the 5G discussion centered on how regionals will roll out 5G effectively with the biggest concerns being:
- How will carriers manage spectrum depth?
- Do the chipsets catch up to infrastructure soon enough for deployment schedules?
- Will Qualcomm, who is very slow on development, be the only player in the chipsets game? According to Ericsson, Nokia and other infrastructure attendees, there will be several new players that will move the handsets forward faster.
- What will pricing for 5G look like? Will it look like the LTE rollout with $10 add-ons? Does the rollout require new plan structures?
- How do they measure competitive concerns? We got that one.
- Sprint/T-Mobile Merger: Most regional carriers are conflicted. While another behemoth is problematic from a competitive standpoint, their participation in CCA will help buying power. Devices, infrastructure, cloud services, and the like, have been a constant challenge for regionals. Larger regional carriers are also concerned about existing roaming/network agreements and the fact that T-Mo has overbuilt in several strategic areas already.
- CBRS: Carriers are excited about the possibility of getting access to CBRS channels from the public sector. This will help with the deployment of rural IoT applications and potentially provide spectrum relief. Additionally, regional carriers have better 1:1 relationships with local government officials, which should expedite deployments.
- RCS (Rich Communication Services): The challenge for all carriers is the keeping revenue expansion going while the rest of the industry pressures ARPUs with promotions. RCS seemed to be the most attractive product for additional incremental revenues. For example, Syniverse is creating a one-stop platform to simplify the process of managing codes, relationship with content vendors and clearinghouses. That solves a major issue for carriers with limited project management resources.
- Dish: Charlie Ergen, Dish CEO, was Wednesday’s Keynote speaker and reaffirmed commitment to building out NB-IoT network. The biggest challenge is time. Dish has 322 days to meet FCC build-out requirements. The Dish plan provides some interesting opportunities for the regionals, specifically the opportunity to build out some areas for Dish with some kind of wholesale relationship.
- Women in Wireless: The lunchtime keynote address was a compelling view of Women In Wireless. The keynote featured such leaders as Kathleen Ham (SVP Gov Affairs for T-Mo), Amy McCune (COO North America for Ericsson), Lauren Wallace (former principal at Layer 3, acquired by T-Mo). The panel tackled the difficult subjects of:
- Diversity in hiring, and specifically, ensuring there was diversity in the original pool of candidates
- The impact of sexual harassment and discrimination in tech/telco industries
- The need to exceed expectations to get ahead.
Needless to say, the lobbying arm of CCA has its hands full over the next several years. Concerns around competition, technology evolution, rural broadband, and net neutrality will drive the docket. Buckle up regional carriers, if you are not already.
Nathan Robson – SVP Sales & Marketing