Oregon cable operator BendBroadband killing fixed LTE service, sells its 700 MHz and AWS spectrum

BendBroadband informed customers that it will shutter its LTE-based wireless broadband and phone service by mid-summer and said it has already agreed to sell its spectrum to a third party it declined to name.

The Bend, Ore., company said it will shutter the wireless service no later than July 25, 2014. BendBroadband pledged to provide an update to customers in coming days that lists alternative broadband service providers.

BendBroadband held 1.7/2.1 GHz AWS spectrum and 700 MHz spectrum licenses. After this article was published, AT&T (NYSE:T) confirmed that it agreeed to acquire two AWS licenses and one 700 MHz license from the cable MSO. The FCC has already approved the transaction.

BendBroadband launched HSPA+ in 2009, replacing that service with fixed-wireless LTE in 2011. The wireless service delivered Internet and phone service to about 2,000 LTE customers located outside BendBroadband's cable footprint. The company said it does not intend to buy back fixed LTE routers and related devices that customers purchased for the soon-to-be-discontinued service.

In a message sent to customers that was obtained by FierceWirelessTech, Britt Wehrman, vice president of marketing at BendBroadband, blamed the company's recent decision on other cable MSOs that backed off from offering wireless service.

"We purchased wireless spectrum about five years ago in order to provide broadband service to areas of Central Oregon that had few, if any, options. At that time, other cable operators planned to enter the wireless business along with us. However, those plans never materialized. As a small provider of a unique wireless service, BendBroadband is not able [to] operate the network as anticipated," Wehrman wrote.

Cable One recently announced it intends to sell its 20 MHz block of AWS spectrum to AT&T (NYSE:T). The Cable One-AT&T proposal follows similar deals that Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Bright House Networks and Cox Communications struck with Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ) in 2011. SpectrumCo, a joint venture backed by Comcast, TWC and Bright House, sold 122 AWS licenses to Verizon for $3.6 billion. Cox struck a separate deal to sell its 20 MHz AWS licenses for $315 million to Verizon.

Despite turning their collective backs on offering cellular-type service, leading U.S.  MSOs are aggressively expanding their Wi-Fi hotspot footprints, which could help them compete against mobile operators' wireless data offerings. Last summer, Jefferies analyst Thomas Seitz predicted that cable operators are poised to shake up the wireless high-speed data business by using Wi-Fi hotspots to sell services that rely on Hotspot 2.0 roaming technology.

"We will continue to offer services via our cable network including fiber services for businesses, Internet, phone, cable TV, datacenter colocation, Wi-Fi services, and broadcasting, through our sister company, Zolo Media," BendBroadband said.

For more:
- see this BendBroadband webpage

Related articles:
AT&T, Cisco promise Hotspot 2.0 Wi-Fi roaming for MWC attendees
Cable One selling broadband wireless spectrum to AT&T
Jefferies predicts cable MSOs will launch 'disruptive Wi-Fi/MVNO' products
LTE coverage targets and subscriber numbers
FCC approves Verizon's $3.9B AWS purchase, T-Mobile spectrum swap
Oregon cable operator pushes fixed LTE with free router giveaway
Family-owned cable operator in Oregon first to launch HSPA+ in US

Article updated Feb. 20, 2014, to include AT&T's confirmation that it bought three spectrum licenses from BendBroadband.

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