Oregon cable operator pushes fixed LTE with free router giveaway

BendBroadband, a small regional cable TV operator in Oregon, is giving away free LTE routers through month's end in order to shift its fixed wireless broadband customers from HSPA+ to its new LTE network.

The free LTE routers are available to those renewing a 12-month service commitment by May 31, 2012. The company's regular price for a wireless home router equipped with LTE and Wi-Fi is $99.99 under a one-year contract. BendBroadband's wireless broadband service plans start at $39.99 per month, when bundled with another service, with a 25 GB data cap.

Shifting its wireless focus solely to LTE, BendBroadband is shuttering its HSPA + wireless network at the end of June. Customers who want to maintain their wireless broadband service will need to install an LTE router prior to the HSPA+ shutoff.

BendBroadband's foray into LTE places it in a unique position as the company could be the first regional cable operator to offer LTE service. The company, which claims to be first service provider in central Oregon to launch LTE, holds both 700 MHz and AWS 1.7/2.1 GHz licenses.

"With wireless Internet speeds of up to 12 Mbps, this enhanced network is especially good news for Internet users served by wired connections that are not capable of delivering true broadband speeds," said the company, adding that the service is also aimed at potential customers in areas of central Oregon not served by wired broadband services.

BendBroadband's LTE launch perhaps indicates what could have been if the large cable TV operators that formed SpectrumCo had opted to use their vast spectrum holdings for fixed broadband services, particularly in rural and remote areas. The companies--Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks--instead are trying to sell their nationwide AWS spectrum licenses to Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ) for $3.6 billion. Separately, Verizon said it will buy Cox Communication's 20 MHz of AWS spectrum covering 28 million POPs for $315 million. Cox had tried to market a mobile CDMA service using that spectrum. Amid antitrust concerns, the FCC is expected to deliver its verdicts on the deals in late July or early August. 

Verizon, meanwhile, has been working with rural partners that want to offer LTE-based mobile services. Earlier this month, Oklahoma-based Pioneer Cellular became the first Verizon Wireless LTE in Rural America participant to light up a commercial LTE network on Verizon's 700 MHz spectrum.

Though BendBroadband is not planning to offer traditional mobile phone service, Mark Hobbs, the company's director of marketing, told Telecompetitor that the company is discussing the possibility of delivering mobile LTE service to vehicles operated by local fire departments and sheriff's agencies.

Hobbs also told Telecompetitor that BendBroadband is slated to complete a fiber network expansion project by year's end. The project was partially funded by a broadband stimulus grant from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration and is aimed at extending fiber rings outside the city of Bend and connecting anchor institutions such as hospitals, schools and libraries in nearby communities.

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

Related articles:
Pioneer Cellular launches LTE under Verizon rural partner program
NetAmerica pitches 700 MHz 'license-saver'
Two Verizon rural LTE partners near launch as program gains new operators
Smaller operators need to innovate, and partner, to survive...and thrive
NetAmerica Alliance brands 4G service 'Bonfire'

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