4G LTEWhen Verizon made its XLTE spectrum and technology available to participants in the Verizon LTE in Rural America (LRA) program, it wasn’t clear how popular the offering would be with the rural carriers.  But Verizon on Monday announced in a blog post that one LRA participant – Kentucky’s Bluegrass Cellular – had begun to “add XLTE network coverage” to its existing LTE network. And in an email to Telecompetitor, Verizon executive Adam Lippman said other LRA participants also will be deploying XLTE.

LRA participants are interested in that option in order to make sure they “can provide their customers and Verizon’s customers with the same customer experience they have come to expect elsewhere in the country,” said Lippman, who is manager of business development and strategic partnerships for Verizon. “This includes meeting the growing demand for streaming video and other bandwidth-intensive consumer and business applications.”

Verizon LTE in Rural America
When rural wireless carriers first opted to participate in the Verizon LTE in Rural America program, a key motivating factor was the ability to lease spectrum in the 700 MHz band from Verizon to build out LTE service.  Spectrum in that band was particularly attractive for rural carriers because it supports relatively long-range communications. That means it can minimize the number of cellsites that carriers must deploy, which is particularly important in rural areas such as those that comprise a large part of the Bluegrass Cellular territory.

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Verizon XLTE, on the other hand, is the name Verizon gave to LTE service deployed in the higher-frequency AWS band. Initially nationwide carriers like Verizon that already had deployed LTE in the 700 MHZ band were expected to use AWS spectrum to boost capacity in high-traffic areas. The reason is that the range that AWS spectrum can support is less than the range that 700 MHz spectrum can support – but AWS can deliver greater capacity in comparison with 700 MHZ spectrum.

According to Verizon, AWS also can support higher-speed service – and that’s how the company has been marketing the offering. The company has claimed double the bandwidth for XLTE. And an XLTE ad states that the service also provides “more space for everyone to stream and share more.”

When Verizon initially launched XLTE back in May 2014, the company noted that approximately 35% of the devices operating on its network could use XLTE. But the company also noted that even those customers whose devices couldn’t use XLTE would benefit from the offering because it would free up more network capacity by shifting some users to XLTE.

The company undoubtedly has considerably more customers with devices capable of using XLTE today.

Why Deploy XLTE?
Not long after the initial XLTE launch, Verizon offered the spectrum required to support the service to LRA companies.

The Verizon blog post suggests that the desire to increase capacity may have been a key consideration in the decision by Bluegrass to deploy XLTE in certain areas. “[I]n order to provide the capacity needed to serve increasing demand in these rural communities, Verizon leases its AWS-1 spectrum and enables LRA participants to provide XLTE service where it is needed,” the blog post states.

But assuming Verizon has indeed fine-tuned its XLTE service to support higher bandwidth that also could be an important driver for some LRA participants to deploy the service.

Bluegrass did not immediately respond to an inquiry from Telecompetitor requesting more information. But we look forward to hearing from them and/or other LRA participants in the future about their reasons for deploying XLTE.

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