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RCA Rebrands as Competitive Carriers Association

Mon, 09/10/2012 - 7:09am
Maisie Ramsay

The Rural Cellular Association has changed its name to reflect a growing membership that includes both small, rural providers and national operators like Sprint, Clearwire, T-Mobile USA and Leap Wireless International.

The rebranded Competitive Carriers Association (CCA) has positioned itself as an organization willing to take on the country's top two providers AT&T and Verizon Wireless, which it frequently refers to as a "duopoly."

"We represent literally everyone except for AT&T and Verizon Wireless," CCA President and CEO said in an interview. "Because we've become the voice of this competitive industry, we've had an increase in the number of wireless carriers joining our ranks."

The group was a vocal opponent to AT&T's buyout of T-Mobile USA, an advocacy effort that helped add Sprint to its membership. After the transaction fell through, T-Mobile joined what was then still called the Rural Cellular Association and has since taken stances at odds with the operator it formerly planned to merge with.

CCA routinely clashes with AT&T and Verizon Wireless on a number of subjects, including data roaming, interoperability in the 700 MHz band, exclusive handset deals, special access, spectrum consolidation and mergers and acquisitions. The government's decision to block the AT&T/T-Mobile transaction last year was a major coup for the CCA.

A number of CCA's members are also part of CTIA, whose members include AT&T and Verizon Wireless. CTIA has remained neutral on a number of issues where there is disagreement between its largest members and its smaller members, including AT&T's acquisition of T-Mobile.

"Together, we can have an amplified voice in Washington, D.C. even though we're outspent a thousand to one in lobbying dollars," Berry said. "It's a huge challenge, and I think to their credit, every one of our members recognizes that if you don't hang together, you'll hang separately."

The name change will likely be a subject of discussion at its upcoming fall conference, which kicks off Sept. 23 in Las Vegas. Executives from T-Mobile, Cricket, Clearwire, C Spire Wireless, Cellcom, Bluegrass Cellular and Atlantic Tele-Network are among the speakers scheduled to give addresses at the event.

CCA currently has more than 100 wireless carrier members, and 185 vendors that are associate members. Berry said it operates as "one carrier, one vote," so the smallest carrier member has the same amount of votes as the largest carrier member.

Its bylaws also contain provisions for its board of directors to "make sure we have a dominant position for the smaller carriers," Berry said.

"We're not running away from our rural roots," he said.

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