CenturyTel, one of the few large rural telcos to be in the fortunate position of owning 700 Mhz spectrum, hinted they intend to launch 4G wireless services using LTE technology in 2010. The hints came from CenturyTel CEO Glen Post on their 4Q08 earnings conference call. It will be CenturyTel’s first foray into a facilities based mobile wireless service. CenturyTel’s 700 Mhz footprint covers about half of their wireline footprint. But that will change dramatically when their acquisition of Embarq closes later this year.
The move is definitely a positive one for CenturyTel, but won’t be without its challenges. The costs to build and operate a 4G network are not insignificant. They will also be facing formidable competition from wireless heavyweights, both directly and indirectly. Directly in select markets where they will go head up with other 4G and 3G options. Indirectly as their customers come to expect the same level of service, options, and features from CenturyTel that they see with other 4G carriers that may not be direct CenturyTel competitors. Keeping up with the 4G ‘joneses’ will be an expensive proposition.