CEO, Net America Alliance: “With our hosted solution and operational tool set our members can be generating revenue within an hour of a tower going live.”
Roger Hutton, CEO, Net America Alliance is delivering a keynote address on Day Two of the LTE North America conference, taking place on the 21st-22nd November 2013, in Dallas, Texas, USA. Ahead of the show we speak to him about how the rural carrier collective is progressing.
How is the NetAmerica Alliance project going?
It has been a busy and a great year for the NetAmerica Alliance and for our members. As we enter the last quarter of 2014 we have doubled the number of alliance members since the end of 2013. Many networks are entering their second year of commercial service, and all members are seeing growth in consumer demand for 4G LTE service. We are delivering on our fundamental belief that just because you live in rural America does not mean to have to compromise in terms of the the type of communication services available to you.
Will rural areas ever be able to match the speeds and bandwidth available by the major networks?
Yes within the constraints of the spectrum they have available to them. Our platform and the 4G LTE radio equipment deployed in our member’s networks are delivered by our technology partner Ericsson and as such are the same as that used by Tier 1 carriers. It is delivering excellent performance and speed. As usage grows (particularly data usage) there will be an ever-increasing demand for spectrum and as such rural carriers will continue to seek out partnerships and access to additional spectrum to meet that demand.
What are the benefits of providing a centralised supercentre and NOC and were there any challenges in getting it up and running?
There are financial, operational, and business reasons for utilising a centralized SuperCenter (i.e. 4G LTE Evolved Packet Core and NOC). Financially, when a service provider decides to use a hosted core as opposed to buying their own, they are able to spend their capital dollars where they can have the most positive impact on their business plan which is the deployment of the Radio Access Network (RAN) targeting increased consumer coverage which has the greatest positive impact on revenue generation.
At NetAmerica we not only deliver the hosted core but all the operational support systems needed to deliver service, measure performance and troubleshoot the network. With our hosted solution and operational tool set, our members can be generating revenue within an hour of a tower going live. They don’t have to take months and months of development to build the tools needed to run their network. Operationally this takes a tremendous burden off of their internal technical team and compresses the time between network build-out and revenue generation, thereby accelerating return on investment (ROI).
The third key area is the ability to focus on the business at hand, which is delivering great service and support to the local community and to focus on the customer experience. The NetAmerica Alliance model allows our members to do just that, which is why we take our mission so seriously.
There were challenges getting to where we are today. It did not happen overnight and it demanded significant investment. 4G LTE is a powerful technology but it is also highly distributed and takes tremendous expertise in terms of integration, operational tool development and knowledge. We invested in tools, people and the development necessary to deliver on the promise of 4G LTE and took that burden off of the shoulders of our members. As carriers contemplate deploying and running their own core we encourage them to speak with us first and let us help them understand the total cost of ownership and speed to market benefits of joining the Alliance versus going it alone.
With the LightSquared LTE project shot down is this a gap in the market that the NAA can adequately fill?
LightSquared had a different model than NetAmerica, but has a similar goal of providing service to rural America. Their model was essentially a wholesale one, whereby they delivered service via satellite and terrestrial network and offered it wholesale to entities which would be the ultimate face to the customer.
While both they and we desire to deliver service to rural America, with our model our members (i.e. the local service providers) own the spectrum, build, own, and run the local network and have complete control over their business and destiny. In our model they are able to gain the scale they need by being part of a larger Alliance of independent carriers without sacrificing any of their independence. We believe that this ability and the local presence it affords is the most effective and natural model to serve rural America.
How will the alliance roll out assist the deployment of VoLTE?
Just as we operate an evolved packet core today for 4G LTE data services, as IP Multimedia Subsystem (IMS) evolves to provide Voice over LTE, we will deliver that capability for our Members out of our SuperCenter. We work closely with our technology partners in the planning, delivery and timing of that capability and with key industry groups on critical issues such as device availability and national coverage needed to make VoLTE a reality for the rural market.
Will the alliance make a co-ordinated move to LTE Advanced or will they operate separately?
One of the things we have learned is that rural consumers have the same demand for services, speed and performance as anyone living in a metropolitan area. As the demand for data handling and growth in usage continues in rural America, our Members will look to answer that demand with the techniques and capabilities delivered by LTE Advanced. A benefit to being an Alliance member is that while they individually will be planning for that evolution, so will the many other members of the Alliance and we discuss issues like that on our bi-weekly technology and service development calls with all of our members. They have direct input and a say into the advanced capabilities we continually roll into the network. They must have input since they own and run the local portion of the network. In that manner, while a capability may be delivered in one member’s geography first, ALL Members get the benefit of planning and deciding when best to deliver it to their local community. It is a coordinated effort with local control.
Why is the LTE North America conference an important date in your diary?
The conference touches on so many important topics in the development, use and evolution of 4G LTE in one venue that we find it very valuable. This conference is being attended by members of our service planning team, network operations team as well as key executives. We very much appreciate attending as well as being part of this important event.
The LTE North America conference is taking place on the 21st-22nd November 2013, in Dallas, Texas, USA. Click here NOW to download a brochure for the event.