Sprint is at it again: As reported by Fierce Telecom, Sprint is calling for more competition in the wholesale backhaul market to expand its wireless network. During his keynote session at Comptel Plus, Dow Draper, Sprint’s president of wholesale and prepaid, stated that more wireline backhaul sources will bring down access costs and increase the level of investment in new wireless service innovations like the Internet of Things. As with Sprint’s previous efforts to expand its offering with a helping hand from incumbent telcos and WISPs, the number three carrier in the U.S. is offering a prime market opportunity for companies who have existing network infrastructure where it lacks coverage.

In particular, rural wireline and wireless network operators alike should take note because there may be a market opportunity for wireless backhaul deployment: 80 percent of Sprint’s markets currently have only one incumbent provider to get wireless backhaul services. But that market inertia might not last long – ABI Research expects the small cell backhaul equipment market to grow at double digit rates and exceed $4 billion by 2020.

The scenario of Sprint working with rural operators to build out its LTE network recalls the big yellow carrier’s Rural Roaming Program from last year, which included “reciprocal roaming agreements”, that extended Sprint service into rural carriers’ coverage areas and vice versa. The move was a subtle acknowledgement that customers everywhere want end-to-end connectivity, and don’t care how it is achieved.

Sprint’s creative solution to driving connectivity in rural areas brings to mind our work with telephone companies and other wireline carriers, whose business model for fiber connectivity does not work in low-density population areas. This leaves telcos and other wireline providers with no choice but to seek alternative methods to realizing new revenue streams.

One of our customers, Big Bend Telephone, has discovered fixed wireless broadband to be quite a cost-effective solution. This family-owned business in west Texas wanted to provide high-quality connectivity to customers on the fringes of or just outside its traditional coverage area, and chose Cambium Networks’ wireless access and backhaul equipment to serve its most remote subscribers.

“We have hung our hat on being innovative and creative. We are not afraid of finding a new way to do things. You can’t solve problems if you are locked onto a particular discipline of thought,” said Rusty Moore, general manager and COO, Big Bend Telephone.

Thus far, customer satisfaction remains high – in fact through its wireless network, Big Bend has won over 1,000 new customers from a neighboring incumbent DSL provider by offering services superior in bandwidth. For more about our suite of solutions for telcos and wireline providers, download the case study on Big Bendvisit our website or read my blog post on last-mile access