FCC Giving Wireless Carriers $4.5 Billion For Rural 4G LTE

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The United States Federal Communications Commission on Thursday resolved the remaining petitions related to its Mobility Fund Phase II, an early 2017 initiative meant to enable and facilitate 4G LTE buildouts in rural areas of the country. The regulator now officially moved forward with the idea of providing wireless carriers with $4.53 billion over the course of the next ten years to have them deploy additional network infrastructure in such isolated regions of the U.S. As part of the agreement, mobile service providers must guarantee download speeds of at least 10Mbps and upload rates no lower than 1Mbps.

While none of the national carriers complained about the upload requirement, T-Mobile protested about the download minimum, having repeatedly asked for the threshold to be lowered to 5Mbps. The telecom giant's petitions have been rejected even though the company remained insistent that 10/1Mbps rates "are out of sync with the realities" of deploying 4G LTE in rural areas, according to the FCC's fact sheet detailing the development. The new action is understood to be a follow-up to the Mobility Fund Phase I which provided 33 bidders with $300 million in 2012, having tasked them with deploying 3G networks across rural America. The major funding increase between the two projects is attributed to the fact that the FCC has been positioning the second initiative as a much larger operation since its beginnings, having planned it to be a long-term solution for delivering acceptable Internet speeds in rural parts of the country. All companies participating in the program are required to accept third-party equipment in their cell towers, the FCC ruled as part of its petition-resolving efforts in the run-up to the launch of the project itself that's now expected later this year.

Enabling rural Internet connectivity recently started becoming a priority of many telecom regulators across the globe as various governments began fearing having their less populated regions be left two technological generations behind urban areas. With the fifth generation of mobile networks now being on the horizon and initial buildouts being planned to start later this year, wireless carriers and network equipment manufacturers are resorting to all kinds of means for bringing 4G LTE to rural areas, from building Internet-relaying blimps to asking churches for help.

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