Dish Network and nTelos are claiming some impressive data rates for the fixed LTE broadband offering they have deployed in a rural Virginia trial. Participants in the trial are seeing data rates from 20 Mbps to more than 50 Mbps, according to the companies. A Dish spokesperson confirmed that the trial is using TD-LTE technology and 2.5 GHz spectrum licensed to nTelos.
In an announcement issued yesterday afternoon, Dish and nTelos attribute the high data rates, at least in part, to “professionally installed rooftop devices at customers’ homes that are intended to deliver significant gain and throughput advantages over inside-the-home antenna solutions.” The companies wasted no time in deploying the trial network, after announcing plans for the fixed wireless broadband service in late May.
Dish already has indicated that its fixed wireless ambitions extend beyond nTelos. When Dish first made a bid this year to acquire Sprint, it said fixed wireless broadband would be part of its plans and estimated a 35 million-home market for the service. And Clearwire — the company that both Dish and Sprint are trying to acquire – holds considerable 2.5 GHz spectrum nationwide. Some people have speculated that even if Dish is unsuccessful in acquiring Clearwire, Dish could end up purchasing some of Clearwire’s spectrum as part of the deal.
It seems quite probable that the trial with nTelos is something Dish pulled together to demonstrate the feasibility and potential of its fixed wireless plans to Clear and Sprint shareholders as they get set to vote on vying acquisition bids.
It’s also possible that even if Dish’s bid to acquire Sprint or Clearwire or some of their spectrum is unsuccessful, Dish might attempt to expand its fixed wireless offering more broadly by pursuing other partnerships similar to the one with nTelos — although Dish declined to comment on that possibililty.
The Dish and nTelos trial is supported by two wireless tower test sites near Waynesboro and Afton, Va. Ericsson and Alcatel-Lucent provided equipment and assisted in the installation.
Verizon also offers a fixed wireless broadband service based on LTE called HomeFusion but the data rates that service supports are considerably lower than what Dish is claiming.