“We are dedicated to providing today’s most innovative communications products and services to our customers,” said Appalachian Wireless CEO Gerald Robinetter in an announcement of the new deal. “The LTE in Rural American program ensures that we will be able to efficiently serve our community and offer our customers the same state of the art LTE network capabilities that are being deployed in larger urban markets in the United States and around the world. This will result in enhanced high-speed data services for our customers locally and when traveling away from home.”
Like most of the program participants, Appalachian Wireless plans to lease 700 MHz spectrum from Verizon Wireless and will construct and operate its own LTE network using that spectrum. Although Verizon also has offered to handle network construction and lease the network to its rural partners, that option entails a considerably longer time to market and most program participants want to get up and running sooner.
The Appalachian Wireless network will cover parts of eastern Kentucky and West Virginia. Customers also will have access to the Verizon Wireless LTE network throughout the U.S.
Appalachian Wireless has offered wireless service since 1991.
Verizon’s LTE in Rural American program seems to be going strong, especially considering that it is only open to carriers in areas where Verizon does not have its own 3G network. It’s easy to see why the program has strong appeal to rural carriers. In addition to eliminating the need to purchase their own spectrum, the program also will enable rural carriers to get earlier access to the latest wireless equipment and devices as well as precious data roaming agreements with Verizon. Although the FCC has mandated that the large wireless carriers negotiate reasonable data roaming deals with other carriers, Verizon is fighting that ruling.
Verizon signed its first LTE in Rural America program participant Bluegrass Cellular back in November 2010. Since then Verizon has added about, on average, one new carrier per month. Other companies besides Appalachian Wireless and Bluegrass that are participating in the program include Chariton Valley, Custer Telephone, Carolina West Wireless, S and R Communications, Cellcom, Cross Wireless, Pioneer Cellular, Strata Networks, Thumb Cellular, and Convergence Technologies.