Pioneer Cellular, one of 13 participants in Verizon’s ‘Long Term Evolution (LTE) in Rural America’ programme, has announced that it has successfully completed end-to-end data testing over its LTE network, in preparation for a commercial launch next spring in central and western Oklahoma. Prior to Verizon’s commercial LTE launch, in May 2010 its chief technical officer Tony Melone revealed that the company was looking to partner with an unspecified number of rural operators in an effort to speed up its LTE deployments. Verizon planned to lease pockets of its 700MHz spectrum to rural carriers so that they can roll out LTE networks of their own, over which Verizon will have roaming rights. To date, 13 rural carriers have leased spectrum covering a total of 2.6 million people in rural communities across ten states. Pioneer announced its participation in the LTE initiative in December 2010, and over the last twelve months the regional cellco has constructed cell towers, laid fibre-optic cable and installed network hardware and software in conjunction with Verizon Wireless engineers. Pioneer is now testing the network and trial devices for speed, reliability and ease of use. Following its launch, Pioneer’s LTE network will cover more than 260,000 people in 21 counties across nearly 17,000 miles of central and western Oklahoma.