Which Single Vendor Has Actively Cultivated and Grown Telecom in U.S. Rural Markets?


The One with Rural at its Roots. 

For telecom vendors, rural markets pose distinct challenges. Often not deemed worth the investment of time, effort, and resources due in large part to limited return on investment.  

Even when bolstered by Universal Service Funds from the FCC, rural operators struggle to stay in the black. Margins and staffs tend to be quite thin and local consumers are slower to adopt to advanced technology. Networks and equipment tend to have a longer lifespan than their city counterparts, so rural operators face the challenge of maintaining legacy equipment. Some of their customers still rely on gear that is two – three generations behind, such as GSM and CDMA, even as it is being phased out. Several other challenges must be considered when working in rural environments, not the least of which are environmental conditions and difficult topography. Vendors must provide operators with high quality networks to ensure consistent, reliable services to customers, hospitals, schools, businesses and regulatory requirements on availability for emergency services 911/e911 and law enforcement.

There is one vendor that has accepted the challenges and met them with tailored solutions honed over years of experience supporting rural operators. They’ve been there to help deliver the latest technology, while managing legacy network needs in underserved rural America, helping to bridge the digital divide. They’ve been able to offer support and interconnection with roaming partners from whom rural carriers secure a large portion of revenue. Their high-quality products with reduced OPEX costs mean that more of the operator’s tight budgets can be spent to improve/offer coverage to further unserved areas. They focus on all customers, regardless of size, helping them to succeed. 

With a unique end-to-end product portfolio, Huawei has been able to supply over 20,000 network nodes of varying types, including over 60 networks in the U.S., 40 of them wireless. 

Currently, the U.S. Government has recommended blocking Huawei from doing business in America. Without Huawei, rural markets simply won’t be served. If they are actually blocked from doing business in this country, service to millions of rural customers will be severely impacted. It would take billions of dollars and several years to rip and replace these networks. Many of the advanced functions and features of Huawei gear are not available nor supported by other suppliers and a multi-vendor solution will create more complex networks and subsequently costly integrations. Huawei provides end-to-end solutions reducing complexity, increasing efficiency of service and, essentially, making these networks viable for the operators. 

If they are no longer permitted to work with Huawei, are these operators being punished for trying to survive? 

Now may be a good time to pause and consider the consequences for the rural communities if we create barriers around this supplier. If Huawei is no longer permitted to do what they do better than anyone else, where will rural operators and consumers turn?  As of now, if Huawei were not serving these markets, it’s unclear how they’d be served at all. For decision-makers with rural constituencies, this is an issue worth exploring in greater detail.