Ericsson partners with NetAmerica to roll out LTE in rural US

NetAmerica Alliance has announced a partnership with Ericsson that will see the rolling out of LTE networks in rural US markets. The Alliance is a standalone organisation that brings together small, independent LTE licence holders in rural America, in an effort to create a nationwide 4G partnership capable of banding together to wield similar economic influence to that held by larger carriers.

The partnership with Ericsson will see the building and deployment of a shared LTE network in smaller markets and rural areas. According to Ericsson’s Arun Bhikshesvaran, this is a new type of LTE deployment that makes it possible for “smaller operators to join together to deliver cost effectively the same mobile broadband services available in major metropolitan areas.”

Under the terms of the four-year contract, Ericsson will be the sole supplier of an LTE-based radio access network and a core network based on Evolved Packet Core (EPC) technology. The contract also includes IMS, which will allow for the deployment of tailor-made applications and systems integration services. In addition, a Mobile Home Gateway solution will assist with the delivery of broadband speeds to rural communities that don’t have cost-effective fixed broadband.

There are currently 225 rural Advanced Wireless Services (AWS) or 700MHz spectrum licence holders in America; according to NetAmerica CEO Roger Hutton, three of these have already agreed to pilot trials beginning in April. A further 60 are in discussions. For the immediate future, the plans is to offer data services only – voice over LTE support is expected early in 2012.

Verizon Wireless has also been looking to partner with rural licence holders in the US, but this has so far been limited to carriers operating in areas where the bigger operator lacks 3G infrastructure. All of these developments are taking place against a backdrop of the Federal  Communications Commission’s (FCC) rumoured intention to require larger carriers to allow smaller players roaming rights on their data networks.  According to Hutton, NetAmerica is currently involved in its own roaming negotiations with Tier 1 carriers.

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