Verizon’s LTE in Rural America program continues to add partners, with the company this month announcing the seventh rural carrier that plans to participate in the program—Indiana-based S and R Communications. Unlike the other companies that announced participation in the program, S and R did not previously offer wireless service. Instead the company is a joint venture between two rural landline telcos—Swayzee Communications and Rochester Telephone Company.
Verizon’s Rural 4G Wireless program, originally announced about a year ago, is part of the carrier’s strategy for deploying 4G LTE. Verizon won 700 MHz spectrum virtually nationwide, but in some areas where the carrier does not already offer 3G service, it is partnering with rural operators on network construction and operation.
S and R will lease 700 MHz spectrum from Verizon and will construct a fiber and tower network to deliver 4G LTE service. “We believe we will bring a skill set and rural market understanding that will bridge the gap between wireless and small independent landline companies in our area,” said Tim Miles, president of Swayzee Communications in an announcement of the Verizon partnership.
Joe McCarter, president of Rochester Telephone Company, added, “We feel this will be a great complement to our fiber network which has recently been completed across our entire exchange.”
It isn’t surprising to see wireline telcos moving into the wireless business, considering the large numbers of consumers that are canceling wireline service in favor of wireless—and partnering with a company like Verizon should help minimize the risk of making that move alone. For the moment, rural carriers in Verizon’s rural wireless program have the distinction of being the only ones with LTE data roaming agreements with Verizon—although that should change now that the FCC has told wireless carriers that they must agree to enter data roaming agreements with other carriers.