These two programs were designed to facilitate a way for Sprint to work more closely with rural operators to extend Sprint's footprint into markets where it doesn't have coverage and to help build a bigger ecosystem of devices all using the same wireless spectrum and technology.
One of Sprint's key problems in competing with AT&T and Verizon Wireless, which together control more than 70 percent of the wireless market in the US, is that its network primarily covers large urban centers and some suburbs. But the company has virtually no coverage in the most rural parts of the country. This puts Sprint at a major competitive disadvantage compared with AT&T and Verizon, which do cover rural markets.
Sprint executives acknowledge that Sprint customers expect to have 4G LTE wherever they travel. The roaming deals that Sprint is striking are helping the company build out its network via partnerships instead of investing in building its network in these underserved markets on its own. At the same time it also gives rural operators more incentive to build their own 4G LTE networks since the relationship will also enable those customers to roam onto Sprint's 4G LTE service in all the major markets it serves.