Cellular South rebrands as ‘C Spire Wireless’; cellco still at loggerheads with FCC over 700MHz interoperability

6 Oct 2011

Last week Mississippi-based wireless operator Cellular South officially rebranded itself as ‘C Spire Wireless’, bringing to an end weeks of speculation regarding the cellco’s future plans. As previously reported by TeleGeography’s CommsUpdate, prior to the announcement a number of unconfirmed US reports indicated that Cellular South was poised to rename itself ‘Personalized Wireless’, after the website personalizedwireless.com went live, featuring a countdown timer set to expire on 26 September. Whilst the website has since been confirmed as Cellular South’s property, the name proved to be a red herring. Kevin Hankins, chief operating officer at C Spire, said: ‘At C Spire, we do not believe a wireless carrier should just ‘serve the masses’ without recognising each and every customer as being unique. We are taking the vastness of all the technology, devices, content and apps that are available to wireless users and enabling customers to experience them in much more meaningful and rich ways. At the end of the day, it will be a more productive, inspiring and rewarding experience to engage with C Spire’.

Industry insiders widely expected the announcement to relate to the company’s planned Long term Evolution (LTE) network, which has been under deployment since late-2010. In March 2008 Cellular South won a ten-year licence for 2×6MHz of 700MHz A Block spectrum covering 14 Economic Areas and 2×6MHz of 700MHz B Block spectrum covering ten cellular market areas (which lies in Band Class 12). The cellco says that the licences cover ‘virtually all of Mississippi and Tennessee and most of Alabama’. The operator has previously expressed a desire to launch commercial LTE services in its first markets by the end of 2011, with plans to expand availability across its 700MHz footprint during 2012.

When quizzed on his company’s LTE plans by Fierce Wireless this week, Meena commented: ‘Unfortunately I can’t talk about that at all. What I can say is that we absolutely know that getting LTE into the market as soon as possible, and in as robust a fashion as possible, is absolutely critical to not only C Spire Wireless, but to any carrier. And we are working diligently toward that, but I’m not able to talk about any dates’. With reference to interoperability in the 700MHz – currently a bone of contention between a number of regional operators and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) – Meena added: ‘The FCC has absolutely shirked its duty in ensuring that there is interoperability in 700MHz, and we are incredibly frustrated by that. We feel like the FCC should step in and ensure that there is interoperability at 700MHz so that the regional-type carriers and other carriers that are not named AT&T and Verizon can have access to an ecosystem of devices that will allow us to get to market just as soon as they have … But the FCC has allowed Verizon to have their own proprietary band class and has allowed AT&T to do it, too. We knew in 2007 that we wanted to get to market early with LTE, we participated in the auction in 2008, we had a credit facility set up, and we were very successful in the auction. But because of the interoperability issue and also the lack of any data roaming mandate with any teeth in it – we should have been in market [with LTE] a year ago if a level playing field had existed. But it hasn’t. And we are very frustrated with that’.

United States, C Spire Wireless