Verizon notches latest rural LTE deal, with S and R Communications

Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ) added its seventh carrier partner to its rural LTE initiative, striking a deal with a company that has never offered wireless service before.

S and R Communications--a joint venture between two rural landline telecom companies, Swayzee Communications and Rochester Telephone Co.--will lease Verizon's 700 MHz upper C Block spectrum in five counties in Indiana. S and R will construct a fiber and tower network within the counties, which will work in conjunction with Verizon's LTE network. 

Bluegrass Cellular, Cellcom, Cross Wireless, Pioneer Cellular, Strata Networks and Thumb Wireless have so far agreed to lease spectrum from Verizon covering, in total, more than 1.8 million people and nearly 58,000 square miles in Kentucky, Oklahoma, Michigan, Wisconsin and Utah.

Verizon has said it will have deployed LTE in 147 markets by year-end, and will cover its entire EV-DO footprint with the technology by the end of 2013. Verizon, which first disclosed its intentions to seek rural licensing deals in May 2010, is using the partnerships to help speed up the buildout of its LTE network in rural areas.

Robin Nicol, a Verizon spokeswoman, said that additional partners will announce deals with Verizon at their own pace. She did not indicate how many more carriers might join the program. Additionally, she said that the FCC's recent rules on mandatory data roaming will not affect the program since the deals already include roaming onto Verizon's LTE network.

When the FCC's data roaming rules were unveiled last week, Ruth Milkman, the chief of the FCC's Wireless Telecommunications Bureau, told reporters that if the FCC did not mandate data roaming rules, data roaming agreements between large carriers and smaller ones would stop.

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