NTelos to expand LTE network in Virginia and West Virginia

Sprint (NYSE: S) wholesale partner nTelos Wireless said it will expand LTE service to 81,000 of its wireless customers in Roanoke, Va., and Charleston W.Va. The attention on those markets and the network expansion comes two months after nTelos said it would sell off its spectrum and its retail business in markets in eastern Virginia, known as its "Eastern Markets," to focus on its "Western Markets" in western Virginia and West Virginia where it has a stronger retail presence and benefits from a network deal with Sprint.

In a statement, nTelos said the LTE network enhancement for Roanoke and Charleston is part of its "4G for All" expansion, and includes LTE deployment across 26 cell sites. This deployment will be the first in a series of nearly 300 LTE site launches the company has planned across its Western Markets in 2015. NTelos already has nine of its markets covered with LTE: Beckley, Bluefield, Parkersburg, Harrisonburg, Staunton, Waynesboro, Winchester, Woodstock and Hagerstown.

As part of the company's refocus on its western Virginia and West Virginia markets, nTelos said it is investing $175 million in deploying its 1900 MHz LTE and upgrading its existing 3G CDMA network.

NTelos said in December that its network currently covers 6 million POPs and after it sells off its Eastern Markets it will cover half that amount, 3 million POPs. The company's cell site count will decline from 1,446 to 998 in the Western Markets. NTelos said in December it counted 457,200 total retail customers, but just 277,100 in its Western Markets. NTelos will maintain service in its Eastern Markets until Nov. 15, 2015, after it sells its spectrum in those areas to T-Mobile US (NYSE:TMUS) and leases it back.

Under the revised terms of a network agreement Sprint and nTelos agreed to in May 2014, nTelos will continue to be the exclusive network provider for Sprint services in its western Virginia and West Virginia service area, which covers around 2.1 million POPs. Sprint customers will have access to nTelos' LTE network and nTelos will have access to Sprint's 800 MHz, 1900 MHz and 2.5 GHz spectrum throughout the territory. Additionally, nTelos retail customers will also have access to Sprint's nationwide LTE network outside the nTelos network footprint. 

As part of the deal with Sprint, nTelos also said it would expand and build its LTE network in the western Virginia and West Virginia territory to specifications that are aligned with Sprint's Network Vision network modernization program. Further, nTelos also agreed to make "future feature upgrades," presumably for LTE Advanced services and beyond.

As part of the exit from the Eastern Markets, nTelos plans to strengthen its Western Markets' network and operating results by expanding LTE services, improving retail performance and enhancing service capabilities.

For more:
- see this release

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