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Sprint today announced that it has reached 4G LTE agreements with 15 additional rural and regional network carriers as part of the Rural Roaming Preferred Provider program it announced with Competitive Carriers Association earlier this year. The program gives smaller carriers a clear path forward to high speed mobile broadband solutions by providing the carriers low-cost access to Sprint’s nationwide 4G LTE network and an opportunity to access an expanded range of mobile devices.

Including the new agreements, the program now includes 27 carriers, extending coverage in 27 states, over 565,000 square miles and a population of more than 38 million people. The 15 carriers joining the program are:

These agreements increase wireless competition by accelerating the deployment and utilization of 4G LTE across the U.S. where the cost of building such networks and the roaming costs are often prohibitively expensive. In addition to reducing roaming costs for carriers and improving competition, the Rural Roaming Preferred Provider program broadens Sprint’s coverage footprint by giving its customers the ability to roam on participating carriers’ networks.

“In just a few short months, Sprint has made significant progress by signing agreements covering 27 regional carriers that serve millions of people across the country,” said Michael C. Schwartz, Sprint senior vice president of Corporate and Business Development. “By working together, we will bring mobile broadband and better wireless devices to underserved communities while expanding 4G LTE coverage for Sprint customers.”

CCA Device Hub

As part of the program, Sprint is working with CCA, Brightstar Corp. and carriers to support a device ecosystem in which carriers may pursue access to a broad portfolio of 4G LTE devices. Leveraging Sprint’s scale can lower costs, improve time to market and expand the portfolio of devices available to regional carriers. Beginning in 2015, Sprint will make devices more compatible with regional carriers’ networks by adding support for additional spectrum bands including the AWS and lower 700MHz spectrum that are used by CCA member carriers. Sprint will also support device changes that allow regional carriers to provision, manage and brand devices independently through CCA’s Device Hub. Participating carriers will be able to work directly with Brightstar, which will be the exclusive distributor for device access and distribution.

CCA Roaming Hub

In addition, Sprint is collaborating with CCA on the Data Access Hub that serves as a clearinghouse for participating members to complete simple, commercially-sustainable and individually-negotiated reciprocal roaming agreements with CCA member operators. The CCA Data Access Hub expands collaboration opportunities among carriers, eases roaming implementation across carriers and makes it easier and less costly to expand 4G LTE coverage.

CCA’s President and CEO Steven K. Berry said, “I am very pleased Sprint has signed agreements with 15 additional carriers and is committed to working with smaller rural and regional carriers. Competitive carriers must have a pathway to 4G LTE technologies, and Sprint’s solution will help them achieve this critical goal. I encourage every CCA member to look at Sprint’s program, and I look forward to our continued work with Sprint on CCA’s Data Access Hub and Device Hub, which will bring numerous additional benefits to competitive carriers and their consumers. This innovative approach will allow small carriers to remain vibrant, independent competitors in the marketplace.”

NetAmerica

NetAmerica Alliance and Sprint continue their aggressive march toward delivering SMART (Small Market Alliance for Rural Transformation) to rural carriers. This previously announced initiative is a shared network alliance which provides participating rural carriers the capabilities they need to build and run 4G LTE mobile networks and to compete in the delivery of 4G LTE mobile broadband services to their communities.

“SMART has been aggressively embraced by rural carriers looking to build networks, expand their reach and deliver on the promise of 4G LTE mobile broadband,” said Roger Hutton, NetAmerica CEO and Chairman. “Since announcing the initiative, we have signed preliminary agreements with approximately 20 carriers interested in building out over 300,000 square miles of network. In addition we continue to work with dozens of others carriers in multiple states to match their specific business expansion goals to the SMART program.”