RTG Skeptical of Verizons Reported Rural 4G Plans

Verizon Wireless reportedly plans to bring 4G service to rural America but the Rural Telecommunications Group (RTG) is, by its own admission, skeptical.

The Wall Street Journal said on Thursday that Verizon Wireless, the nations largest wireless service provider, is in talks with rural counterparts to license to them some of the 700MHz spectrum it bought in 2008. That way, residents could have access to Verizons in-progress LTE network, even if they dont have 3G service.

But RTG Executive Director Tanya Sullivan is viewing the report with some suspicion. None of RTGs members has been contacted by Verizon about the potential rural-spectrum partnership, she wrote in a May 13 statement.

In fact, industry information suggests that Verizon has entered into some level of negotiations with only two wireless carriers, both of whom are CTIA members, Sullivan said. On the whole, RTG is skeptical of Verizons sudden interest in rural spectrum partnerships, she wrote.

But are Verizons intentions indeed sudden? As research firm TeleGeography pointed out, Verizon executives promised a year ago to blanket rural America with 4G service, even places where the companys CDMA service doesnt reach. To do that, Verizon would need to work with smaller wireless carriers, rather than building millions of dollars worth of new infrastructure. The Journal said Verizon is considering licensing spectrum for a small fee; rural operators then could resell Verizons 4G mobile access. The newspaper further noted that the question of who would pay to install the needed equipment likely would be worked out in individual contracts.

Meanwhile, RTG remains dubious on the matter. If Verizon Wireless follows through on the apparent proposal, RTG still is even less convinced that rural Americans would benefit should one of these proposed deals actually become a reality, Sullivan said. However, RTG called on the FCC to ensure several safeguards, if the partnerships materialize: demand reasonable rates and terms for data roaming; mandate that all 700MHz device be able to operate on all 700MHz spectrum; and keep Verizon from warehousing valuable spectrum in rural areas.

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