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CenturyTel eyes 2010 LTE rollout

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CenturyTel described plans to roll out Long-Term Evolution (LTE) technology in 2010 as a means to provide not only broadband access in rural areas but high-speed data mobility elsewhere.

The largely rural telco acquired licenses to the necessary 700 MHz spectrum nearly a year ago, but as recently as last July, the company said it was merely “leaning toward” LTE.

However, when asked on the company’s fourth-quarter earnings call today if any spending on an LTE rollout would occur in 2010, Glen Post, CenturyTel’s chief executive officer, replied, “That’s right. It’ll be 2010 before there are any significant dollars [spent], and even then, we’ll roll out in a few markets. We’ll enter the space on a selective basis as we prove the success of the technology rollout.”

“We think it’s a very efficient way to provide broadband in rural areas and more efficient access in a lot of our markets as we provide high-speed data mobility to our customers,” he said.

He also said Verizon’s planned LTE rollout was “a positive” for CenturyTel.

CenturyTel’s 700 MHz spectrum covers 53% of its footprint, a number Post said he wants to increase. But it is also acquiring Embarq, a carrier with a much larger footprint but no such spectrum. “We’re looking for possible ways to carve out spectrum, working with other carriers to gain access to spectrum,” Post said.

In Embarq territory, said Donna Jaegers, an analyst with D.A. Davidson & Co., “They could probably get some sort of spectrum, but probably not 700 MHz. Maybe in the 2.3 GHz to 2.4 GHz bands, who knows. If you look at enough old paging companies, sometimes there’s spectrum available.”

The choice of LTE technology for 700 MHz spectrum is not surprising. Of the major 700 MHz license holders, Verizon Wireless, AT&T, US Cellular and MetroPCS have all staked out LTE. The WiMax Forum has said it will certify products at 700 MHz, but such products have yet to emerge. And the only other technology being used in the band is Qualcomm’s MediaFLO mobile TV technology, which has no broadband component. At a Telephony event held last summer, Vanu Bose, chief executive officer of equipment vendor Vanu, put it this way: “If anyone owns 700 MHz spectrum and is thinking of doing something other than LTE, with all due respect, I think you're nuts. You'd be going off on your own.”

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© 2014 Penton Media Inc.

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