Nearly two years after signing up for Verizon Wireless’ LTE in Rural America program, Kentucky-based Bluegrass Cellular today launched its initial service from that agreement in the cities of Bowling Green, Elizabethtown, Glasgow, Radcliff and Bardstown, Ken. The service provides customers in those areas with access to LTE services using 700 MHz spectrum from Verizon Wireless and infrastructure provided by Bluegrass.
Bluegrass, which was one of the first operators to sign up for Verizon Wireless’ plan, noted the initial launch covers 348,000 potential customers and portions of the Interstate-65 corridor between Louisville and Nashville. In addition to local coverage, the deal provides Bluegrass customers that sign up for LTE services nationwide roaming access to Verizon Wireless’ LTE network, which recently surpassed 245 million pops covered across more than 400 markets.
As part of its LTE in Rural America program, Verizon Wireless is leasing the full 22 megahertz of spectrum in the 700 MHz band to carriers in certain markets through 2029 to help facilitate the faster rollout of its LTE services. The carrier has said that as part of the agreement, Verizon Wireless would not build out LTE services in those markets where a rural carrier was providing coverage and that carriers would be able to set their own pricing plans for the service, including offering unlimited data packages if they so choose.
While Verizon Wireless’ LTE deal has rubbed some rural operators and trade associations the wrong way, the carrier has attracted more than a dozen carriers to the program. Critics have noted that Verizon Wireless has used the program to circumvent providing broader device support for LTE services in the 700 MHz band. The carrier’s current LTE offering is reliant on Band Class 13, which is in the upper 700 MHz band with Verizon Wireless the sole holder of spectrum in that band. The carrier has called on the government to not require operators to provide device requirements to handset makers that include support for all spectrum band classes in the 700 MHz band. This is seen as limiting device availability to smaller operators that own spectrum in other 700 MHz bands and also limits the ability for roaming across those spectrum bands.
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