Verizon Wireless continues to attract rural operators to its LTE in Rural America program with the announcement that Alaska-based KPU Telecommunications has signed up for the offering. KPU, which is officially known as Ketchikan Public Utilities, is a municipally-owned telecom provider currently offering fiber-to-the-home services in Ketchikan.

The agreement with Verizon Wireless will allow KPU to lease 22 megahertz of spectrum in the upper 700 MHz band to power an LTE network that KPU will build and operate. In addition to the spectrum, KPU will also rely on Verizon Wireless for core services that will allow tight integration with Verizon Wireless’ nationwide LTE offering. Verizon Wireless also agrees to not build out its LTE network in partner markets to compete with the offering.

Verizon Wireless picked up a state-wide 700 MHz license covering Alaska in2010 from Triad 700. Verizon Wireless was reported last year to be working on rolling out its own network covering parts of the state.

Verizon Wireless has signed up dozens of rural operators to its LTE in Rural America Program, with a handful having already launched services. One of those launches was conducted last fall by Bluegrass Cellular covering portions of Kentucky. The carrier last week announced that it would also begin rolling out a fixed-mobile broadband offering using its own 700 MHz spectrum holdings that will run side-by-side with the Verizon Wireless-connected service.

Verizon Wireless’ LTE in Rural America program has garnered strong reaction from both sides as proponents of the offering, including those carriers that have signed up for the program, claim it allows them to move quickly to market with a robust LTE offering, something that as rural carriers they have never been able to do in the past.

However, many also continue to look skeptically at the program as Verizon Wireless has also been pushing a so-called 700 MHz “band plan” that does not require device and equipment makers to supply products that include all of the different 700 MHz spectrum bands auctioned by the government, including those that were acquired by rural operators. This has left many, including the Competitive Carriers Association, arguing that equipment makers will bypass building products that support all the 700 MHz spectrum bands and this limit interoperability.

Posted on 23 April 2013 by Dan Meyer