YOU ARE AT:CarriersCarrier Wrap: Shentel completes LTE upgrade; Republic updates Moto X rate plans

Carrier Wrap: Shentel completes LTE upgrade; Republic updates Moto X rate plans

Editor’s Note: Wireless operators are a busy bunch, and as such RCR Wireless News will attempt to gather some of the important announcements that may slip through the cracks from the world’s largest carriers in a weekly wrap-up. Enjoy!

–Shenandoah Telecommunications said it has completed its LTE network upgrade as part of network affiliate Sprint’s Network Vision program. The upgrades, which were installed with the help of network partner Alcatel-Lucent, included the replacement of all Shentel’s network equipment and antennas.

Shentel said it had invested $100 million over the past two years building out the LTE capabilities and upgrading its existing CDMA-based 3G services across portions of Virginia, West Virgina, Maryland and Pennsylvania. The network will serve Shentel’s customer base as well as roaming customers from Sprint and its affiliates.

Shenandoah early last year signed an addendum to its affiliate agreement with Sprint calling for the deployment of LTE services. As part of the agreement, Shenandoah received access to additional 1.9 GHz and 800 MHz spectrum holdings, extended the terms of its affiliate contract from 2019 to 2024 and increase the cap on the “net service fee” it receives from 12% to 14% beginning July 1, 2013.

Shenandoah is one of the few affiliates Sprint did not acquire following the merging of Sprint and Nextel operations. Shenandoah did manage to secure control over some Nextel assets to resolve a legal battle with Sprint regarding clauses in its affiliate agreement.

–Along with plans to offer Motorola’s latest Moto X smartphone, Republic Wireless is set to unveil new rate plans for its Wi-Fi/cellular hybrid service. The new plans will continue to take advantage of Wi-Fi connectivity when possible, but with broader cellular support from network host Sprint.

The plans will begin at $5 per month and include unlimited voice calling, messaging and data services over Wi-Fi. That price does not include the cost to connect to any paid Wi-Fi services, so is mostly targeted at users signing onto known or open Wi-Fi networks.

For $10 per month, Republic will offer unlimited voice calling and messaging over Wi-Fi or a Sprint cellular signal and unlimited data over a Wi-Fi connection. Ramping up to $25 per month brings unlimited data over a Sprint 3G connection, while $40 per month adds unlimited access to a Sprint’s LTE network. Customers will also be able to switch between rate plans up to twice per month to take advantage of the cellular data, calling or messaging services.

The new plans are only being offered for the Moto X device, with current Republic customers using any of the company’s legacy devices being offered a $100 credit towards the price of Moto X, which is set to retail for $300. In addition to the new plans, the Moto X device will also allow for voice call handoffs between a Wi-Fi signal and a cellular signal should a customer move outside of a Wi-Fi signal.

–Leap Wireless, which is in the process of being acquired by AT&T, announced a “refer a friend” promotion that will provide customers up to $500 in credit per year. A current customer that gets a “friend” to sign up for Leap’s Cricket service will receive a $25 credit as will the new customer signing up for service. A customer can receive credit for up to 10 referrals per year.

The referral program could be a response to Leap’s continued operational challenges, highlighted by the loss of 140,000 customers during the third quarter of this year, and around one million net customer losses over the past 12 months. AT&T has said it plans keep the Cricket brand post-acquisition to help target the no-contract space.

–Speaking of AT&T, the carrier said it will add dispatch features to its Enhanced Push-to-Talk service designed to enable workforce management. The feature will allow for location tracking of enabled devices using desktop software as well as the ability to monitor and record conversation over those devices.

For Enhanced PTT devices using Google’s Android operating system, AT&T is also allowing users to read missed call alerts, personal notifications, and return Enhanced PTT calls without having to “unlock” the screen; the ability to have the option of setting a “home” talk group to hear only the calls on that group by default; and support for Enhanced PTT on non-cellular and Wi-Fi only devices in addition to existing smartphones.

–Russian mobile operator Mobile TeleSystems launched a commercial LTE network in the Northwest Federal District of Russia with the help of network partner Samsung. The rollout is part of a three-year agreement signed between MTS and Samsung earlier this year.

The network currently covers the portions of the Pskov region and Velikie Luki, with expansion to other markets in Pskov including Ostrov, Nevel, Opochka, Novosokolniki and Pechory scheduled for year end. Further expansion is planned for next year to encompass Saint Petersburg, Leningrad, the Arkhangelsk region and the Komi Republic. MTS said the network is capable of providing network speeds of up to 75 megabits per second to end-users.

–Verizon Wireless has partnered with Germany’s Giesecke & Devrient to deploy a ruggedized LTE SIM card for use in machine-to-machine applications. G&D noted that the burlier SIM card is designed for devices working in “more harsh environments, including extreme temperature fluctuations, vibration or high humidity, like those found in outdoor meters, automobiles, external security cameras and buoys.” The SIM card is also engineered to have a “longer data retention period” than standard SIM cards.

G&D said the Verizon Wireless M2M LTE SIM will also support CDMA (C-SIM) and 3G (U-SIM) networks.

Additional carrier news can be found on the RCR Wireless News “Carriers” page.

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