Agri-Valley aims to be first rural LTE operator

Rural ISP and 3G operator Agri-Valley Communications aims to become the first rural operator to offer LTE through a deal with Nokia Siemens Networks.

The operator, based in Pigeon, Mich.,  plans to complement its current wireline, fixed and wireless CDMA EV-DO services with LTE in certain rural areas of Michigan. The company won spectrum in the 700 MHz auction back in 2008. NSN will provide LTE infrastructure and network management services.

According to Agri-Valley CEO Ed Eichler, the company came by its 700 MHz licenses quite cheap. "Talk about a perfect storm. We were able to negotiate and we have the cash to do this. No one else is in the position to do this," he said in an interview with FierceBroadbandWireless.

The company expects to have its first 10 test sites in operation by Nov. 15. Eichler said the company plans to roll out LTE in all of its 40 counties in the northern part of Michigan's Lower Peninsula within the next three to five years. Initially Agri-Valley will offer nomadic services.

Agri-Valley isn't a candidate to work with Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ), which has invited discussion with rural operators to fill out its LTE footprint, because it owns spectrum that is in AT&T Wireless' (NYSE:T) band class, Eichler said.

Agri-Valley also has backhaul covered as it has acquired a significant amount of fiber assets that include several miles of fiber. "We're putting a hub in there, and we've started talking to various middle-mile carriers to find out what fiber is available," Eichler said. The company is also willing to build some of its own middle-mile assets.

For more:
- see this release
- read this Telecompetitor article

Related articles:
Verizon in talks with rural operators for LTE spectrum deals
Verizon seeking USF money for rural LTE buildout
LTE roaming likely a long way off

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