It’s hard to believe it’s been five years since we first heard about Verizon’s LTE in Rural America program, which gives small rural network operators the ability to build out Verizon spectrum in areas where Verizon is not doing a build-out.
In a blog post, Verizon celebrates the five-year anniversary by sharing program accomplishments:
- 21 participating companies
- 19 networks launched
- 100,000 square miles covered (greater than the state of Oregon)
- LRA leases cover 2.9 million people
- Build-outs reach 2.5 million people
- 250,000 daily Verizon roamers as of October 2014
- 250,000 subscribers as of November 2014
The Verizon rural LTE program was a pet project for Verizon chief Lowell McAdam, who announced the project in May 2010. Not surprisingly the project quickly gained support, as a key benefit was the ability to use virtually the same devices that manufacturers were creating for Verizon. In contrast, rural operators with spectrum holdings in bands not used by one of the large national carriers had considerable difficulty getting manufacturers to build devices for them.
According to the Verizon post, 39 devices are currently certified for use by LRA participants, including 22 phones, 11 data devices and six tablets. Partners also get other technical support from Verizon in building their networks.
Another important benefit of the Verizon LRA program is that it addressed one of the big problems with spectrum policy – that of big carriers buying spectrum tied to metro areas that also includes rural areas, but never building out the rural areas.
The first LRA networks were launched in April 2012 and since then the majority of participants have launched service.
Sprint Follows Verizon’s Lead
Since Verizon launched LRA, Sprint also has launched a program to enable rural network operators to build out Sprint spectrum. The details are somewhat different, as the program is administered by the NetAmerica Alliance, in cooperation with the Competitive Carriers Association. But as with LRA, the Sprint program enables rural network operators to build out Sprint spectrum, gain technical support and use virtually the same devices that Sprint uses.