C Spire to launch LTE in 20 Mississippi markets in September

Regional wireless carrier C Spire Wireless will launch LTE service in 20 markets in Mississippi in September, a significant delay from C Spire's initial goal of rolling out LTE by the end of 2011.

C Spire said it will invest $60 million to begin the deployment in Mississippi, which will cover 2,700 square miles, a population of 1.2 million and more than 360 cell sites. The carrier said the deployment will cover the Jackson metropolitan area, the Mississippi Gulf Coast and numerous cities throughout Mississippi, including Brookhaven, Columbia, Natchez, Petal, Hattiesburg, McComb and Lucedale in southern Mississippi; Oxford, Tupelo, Corinth, New Albany, Pontotoc, Booneville, Starkville, Columbus and West Point in the northern part of the state; Yazoo City, Cleveland, Greenville, Greenwood and Clarksdale in the Mississippi Delta region and the city of Meridian and parts of Lauderdale County in eastern Mississippi.

C Spire operates a network that covers Mississippi and parts of Tennessee, Alabama and Florida. The company has close to 900,000 total subscribers.

Interestingly, C Spire did not announce any devices or pricing plans for its LTE network, nor did it say when it would expand LTE coverage beyond its initial deployment in Mississippi. A C Spire spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment. However, the company did indicate that customers can expect to experience average downlink speeds of 4 to 12 Mbps and uplink speeds of 1 to 5 Mbps.

In January, C Spire's LTE plans appeared to have been derailed. When questioned on the status of its LTE buildout by FierceWireless, company spokesman Dave Miller said only: "We did not launch 4G LTE at the end of 2011. We have no further comment beyond that." C Spire, formerly known as Cellular South, announced in November 2010 that it would launch an LTE network on its 700 MHz spectrum in the fourth quarter of 2011. At the time, C Spire said Samsung would provide LTE network infrastructure as well as two LTE smartphones that would work in LTE band class 12. C Spire, which is a privately held company with a CDMA network, did not disclose the value of the contract with Samsung.

It's unclear if Samsung remains C Spire's LTE vendor; Samsung wasn't mentioned in C Spire's LTE announcement. A Samsung representative declined to comment on the topic.

C Spire will join the likes of MetroPCS (NASDAQ:PCS), Cricket provider Leap Wireless (NASDAQ:LEAP) and U.S. Cellular in offering  regional LTE networks (U.S. Cellular plans to launch its first LTE device, a Samsung tablet, later this month). Verizon Wireless' (NYSE:VZ) LTE network covers 200 million POPs, AT&T Mobility's (NYSE:T) LTE network covers 74 million POPs, Sprint Nextel (NYSE:S) plans to launch LTE by mid-year and T-Mobile USA intends to launch LTE in 2013. 

For more:
- see this release
- see this fact sheet (PDF)

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