bend broadband+lteOregon cable operator Bend Broadband launched a fixed wireless offering based on LTE, possibly making it the first small regional cable company to do so.

The offering will support data rates of up to 12 Mbps and by the end of June will replace the company’s existing fixed wireless offering based on HSPA+. The fixed wireless services supplement Bend Broadband’s existing cable modem service, said Mark Hobbs, director of marketing for the company, in an interview. Hobbs noted that Bend Broadband has AWS and 700 MHz licenses throughout various parts of central Oregon, a largely rural area.

“We’re picking up people on the periphery,” said Hobbs. “We’ve got a very defined footprint with cable. This allowed us to expand our footprint beyond the cable plant.” Typically customers for the fixed wireless service have no alternative for Internet connectivity other than dial-up or satellite, or in some cases low-speed DSL.

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At this time Bend Broadband has no plans to launch traditional mobile wireless service. “Our biggest concern about cellphone is the roaming charges,” Hobbs said.

However the company is talking with fire departments and sheriff’s offices about using the LTE service in their vehicles.

Bend Broadband customers that are currently connected to the HSPA+ service can get a free LTE router when they commit to 12 months of service.

Hobbs also offered an update on the progress of the company’s fiber network expansion project which was funded, in part, through a broadband stimulus grant from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration. The project will extend fiber rings north, south and east of the city of Bend and connect anchor institutions such as hospitals, schools and libraries in communities reached by the rings.

“We’re in the final stages of connecting the rings,” Hobbs said. The project, he said, “allows us to bring high-performance networks to small communities.”

Hobbs expects the project to be completed before the end of the year.

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