Bluegrass takes wraps off fixed LTE service in Kentucky

Kentucky-based Bluegrass Cellular, which already offers mobile broadband service as part of Verizon Wireless' (NYSE:VZ) rural LTE initiative, launched a fixed LTE service called GetSetGo.

The new service uses Bluegrass' lower 700 MHz spectrum licenses and is aimed at serving a coverage area encompassing more than 700,000 people by June.

"With this network, we will meet FCC mandates for the timely deployment of broadband services and expand our LTE footprint into new market areas. We look forward to expanding our products and services as the LTE product ecosystem expands, and as carrier-to-carrier LTE roaming and interoperability become a reality," said Ron Smith, president and CEO of Bluegrass Cellular.

Smith's comment points to issues dogging many small mobile operators that have been unable to drum up vendor interest in providing LTE smartphones and other mobile devices for their lower 700 MHz spectrum, which generally requires use of equipment based on 3GPP Band 12 specifications.

Band 12 covers certain operations in the Lower A, B, and C Blocks, while Band 17 covers operations in the Lower B and C Blocks, according to the FCC. AT&T (NYSE:T) holds Band 17 spectrum and contends it drove creation of that band class within 3GPP after the 700 MHz spectrum was auctioned because of a need to guard against interference from Channel 51 broadcast transmissions adjacent to Band 12 Lower A Block spectrum.

Due to interoperability issues between the bands, the FCC's Wireless Telecommunications Bureau has extended the interim construction deadline to Dec. 13, 2013, for all active Lower 700 MHz band B Block licensees that had an interim four-year construction benchmark deadline before that date. On March 2, 2012, the commission issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to "promote interoperability in the Lower 700 MHz band and to encourage the efficient use of spectrum," but it has yet to set any new rules.

A number of rural mobile operators, such as Bluegrass, have been able to launch mobile LTE service by leasing 700 MHz upper C Block spectrum from Verizon Wireless as part of its LTE in Rural America (LRA) program.

"The launch of our second LTE network complements our partnership with Verizon Wireless by expanding the company's network control capabilities and positions the company for the planned expansion of new competitive broadband products and services," said Smith.

Bluegrass' GetSetGo offering uses an LTE-enabled Wi-Fi router that integrates Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n and Ethernet. The company said GetSetGo customers will experience download speeds of 5 to 12 Mbps and 2 to 5 Mbps for uploading.

Bluegrass said the LTE core and test sites supporting GetSetGo services were placed into service in late 2012 in the Kentucky cities of Bowling Green, Elizabethtown and Radcliff. Several hundred of its customers migrated from the company's 3G broadband service to LTE as the company conducted focus groups and prepared for the full commercial launch of GetSetGo, said Bluegrass.

The operator also is expanding the GetSetGo service from markets where it has provided telecommunications services during the past two decades into contiguous markets that include Clarksville, Tenn., and Hopkinsville, Owensboro, Danville and Richmond, Ky.

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

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