Verizon Wireless (NYSE: VZ) said all 21 of its partners in its LTE in Rural America (LRA) program have now launched LTE service, which it said fulfills its goal of expanding coverage to rural parts of the country.
In May, Verizon had said that 19 of the 21 program participants had launched service and that the last ones to do so would be Triangle Communications in Montana and Wireless Partners in Maine, which were both relatively new to the program compared to other carriers. Triangle launched service on Sept. 28 and Wireless Partners launched service today.
Under the program, LRA members lease Verizon's 700 MHz Upper C Block spectrum. They then build out their own networks and sell service to their own customers, but have access to Verizon's network vendors, LTE device portfolio and their subscribers can roam onto Verizon's nationwide LTE network and the networks of other LRA partners. Verizon intends to allow its rural LRA members to gain access to its AWS-1 spectrum to enhance capacity on their LTE networks if they need it. The program also allows Verizon to quickly and cheaply build out rural areas.
The LRA spectrum Verizon has leased covers 225,000 square miles in 169 rural counties in 15 different states, according to Verizon. The company said more than 1,000 LTE cell sites have been activated as part of the program, covering an area larger than Colorado, and that 2.7 million people are covered by those cells sites. Additionally, Verizon said more than 50 wireless devices have been certified for the program, including smartphones, tablets and connected devices.
"The LRA program has positively impacted the lives of Americans from Maine to Alaska, and we're very proud to be a part of that," Philip Junker, executive director of strategic alliances at Verizon and a leader of the LRA program, said in a statement. "Verizon has always been a responsible steward of spectrum resources. We had a vision of partnering with the rural carrier community, we put our resources behind that vision, and we delivered what we promised for our customers."
Verizon said the LRA program has made it possible for partners to offer mobile healthcare and a mobile health clinic in Iowa; track train times and locations in Kentucky; and provide weather alerts to farmers in Iowa.
Current LRA participants include Bluegrass Cellular; Cross Telephone; Pioneer Cellular; Cellcom; Thumb Cellular; Strata Networks; S and R Communications; Carolina West; Custer Telephone Cooperative; KPU Telecommunications; Chariton Valley Communication Corporation; Appalachian Wireless; Northwest Missouri Cellular; Chat Mobility; Matanuska Telephone Association; Wireless Partners; Triangle Communications; Nemont; Mid-Rivers Communications and Copper Valley Telecom.
Other carriers are also embracing partnerships to expand their LTE service. Sprint (NYSE: S) is using its Rural Roaming Preferred Provider program to expand its LTE footprint and has 30 partners, including some LRA members. T-Mobile US (NYSE:TMUS) has leased its spectrum to other carriers in an effort to expand its LTE network. However, T-Mobile has not said how many carriers it has leased spectrum to, what spectrum bands were leased, or how much territory those leases cover.
- see this release
Sprint: 16 of 30 rural LTE roaming partners have now launched LTE service
T-Mobile confirms it has leased spectrum to other carriers to expand LTE network coverage
T-Mobile catches up with Sprint: Both carriers now cover 280 million POPs with LTE
T-Mobile takes LTE roaming north to Alaska
Sprint adds 15 rural carriers to LTE roaming program
Verizon to give rural LTE partners access to its AWS spectrum, 'XLTE' network