Cellular South: We won't participate in Verizon's rural LTE licensing program

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Cellular South, the nation's ninth largest wireless operator with around 900,000 subscribers, said it will not participate in Verizon Wireless' (NYSE:VZ) planned rural LTE licensing program.

"Cellular South will focus on building its own business, not helping Verizon expand its network," the carrier wrote in a recent FCC filing.

The news is notable as Verizon last week announced that Bluegrass Cellular was its first named LTE licensing partner. The deal calls for Verizon Wireless to lease its 700 MHz upper C-block wireless spectrum to Bluegrass Cellular in its service areas where Verizon has not built a network. Using the leased spectrum, Bluegrass will build and operate its own LTE network and serve Bluegrass customers, Verizon Wireless customers and customers of the other rural operators who make LTE deals with Verizon. In addition, Bluegrass Cellular customers will have access to Verizon Wireless' 4G LTE network throughout the United States.

Verizon announced its rural LTE licensing program in May, an effort to more quickly build out the rural sections of its planned nationwide LTE network. Last month, Verizon Communications President and COO Lowell McAdam said that some 200 operators had reached out to the company about the program, and that Verizon had reached agreements with five operators and was in discussions with another 12 operators.

In its filing with the FCC, Cellular South said it paid $192 million in 2008 for 700 MHz spectrum licenses, and is urging the FCC to mandate device interoperability across the 700 MHz band--a ruling that would essentially require Verizon to build LTE devices that also work on the 700 MHz spectrum owned by Cellular South.

Interestingly, Cellular South in its FCC filing also disclosed that "after a year of negotiations, Cellular South now has a data roaming agreement with one of the larger carriers." The carrier declined to name the carrier, or provide details.

For more:
- see this Cellular South FCC filing

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