Oklahoma-based Pioneer Cellular announced it will partner with Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ) on Verizon's rural LTE program, becoming the second operator to go public with its support for the plan. Kentucky's Bluegrass Cellular announced a similar partnership in November.
In October, Verizon Communications President and COO Lowell McAdam said the carrier had reached agreements with five operators for licensing deals, and was holding formal discussions with another dozen operators. Verizon is using the deals to help speed up the buildout of its LTE network in rural areas.
Just as with Bluegrass Cellular, Verizon agreed to lease its 700 MHz upper C Block wireless spectrum to Pioneer in Pioneer's service areas where Verizon has not built a network. Using the leased spectrum, Pioneer will build and operate its own LTE network in western and southern Oklahoma and serve its customers, Verizon subscribers and customers of the other rural operators that make LTE licensing deals with Verizon. In addition, Pioneer customers will have access to Verizon's LTE network.
Verizon has launched its LTE service in 39 markets, covering 110 million POPs, including in Oklahoma City. The carrier will expand that figure to 200 million POPs by 2012 and more than 285 million by 2013.
Verizon isn't the only company pushing rural LTE deployments though. Rural ISP and 3G operator Agri-Valley Communications aims to become the first rural operator to offer LTE through a deal with Nokia Siemens Networks. The operator, based in Pigeon, Mich., plans to complement its current wireline, fixed and wireless CDMA EV-DO services with LTE in certain rural areas of Michigan.
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