Verizon Wireless has today stated that its partners in the LRA, LTE in Rural America, program have launched their LTE service, which satisfies Verizon's goal of expanding coverage to rural parts of the country. This news follows the announcement in May that nineteen of the twenty one partners had launched service and the remaining two – Triangle Communications in Montana and Wireless Partners in Maine – have very recently launched their high speed data service. Triangle's service went live on Monday 28 September and Wireless Partners' LTE network went live earlier today. Both Triangle Communications and Wireless Partners were relatively new to the LTE in Rural America scheme.
To explain the LRA program, here each of the twenty one network partners lease Verizon's 700 MHz spectrum in the Upper C Block. The network operator must build out their own network and sell service to their own customers, but will also be able to use Verizon's own network suppliers, LTE device portfolio and – importantly – their subscribers may roam onto Verizon's national LTE network and other LRA carriers' networks, too. This scheme provides Verizon the ability to quickly and cheaply provide a service to rural customers. To date, the LRA plan covers 225,000 square miles across almost 170 rural counties in fifteen different states. The network partners have activated more than one thousand LTE cell sites covering 2.7 million people and over fifty wireless devices have been certified for the program, covering smartphones, tablets and other connected devices. Verizon's Executive Director of Strategic Alliances, Philip Junker, said this on the program: "The LRA program has positively impacted the lives of Americans from Maine to Alaska, and we're very proud to be a part of that. Verizon has always been a responsible steward of spectrum resources. We had a vision of partnering with the rural carrier community, we put our resources behind that vision, and we delivered what we promised for our customers."
So far, Verizon's LRA scheme has enabled business partners to provide a mobile healthcare and clinics in Iowa, plus farmers' weather forecasting. It has also been used to track and help schedule trains in Kentucky. Verizon's ultimate plan includes providing the LTE in Rural America partner carriers access to its AWS-1 spectrum, which they may use to enhance their networks if required. The additional spectrum will allow the rural networks the ability to increase the performance and capacity of their networks.