AlaskaComm delays LTE launch to year-end; Verizon now breathing down its neck

4 May 2012

According to, Alaska Communications (AlaskaComm) has delayed the prospective launch date of its in-deployment Long Term Evolution (LTE) network from this month until ‘the later part of the year’. The admission coincides with reports that the carrier started to sell Apple’s popular iPhone last month, a device which can only connect to 3G networks at present. Previously, in June 2011 AlaskaComm said that it would spend around USD20 million on the deployment of LTE services in the state, making it the first operator to offer 4G in Alaska. Elsewhere, Verizon Wireless which has the largest LTE footprint in the US, filed an application with the FCC in August 2010 to acquire the 700MHz C Block spectrum licence covering Alaska from Triad, a designated entity that purchased the license during the FCC’s 700MHz 2008 spectrum auction; Triad originally paid around USD1.8 million for the concession. At that time, Verizon spokesman Jeffrey Nelson said there was no timetable for the company’s Alaskan LTE deployment, and did not dispute AlaskaComms’ claim to be the first cellco to deploy LTE in the state.

However, with AlaskaComm’s launch now delayed, the tables have turned, and March 2012 saw Alaska’s Matanuska Telephone Association (MTA) announce that it had entered into an agreement with Verizon Wireless to participate in the larger company’s ‘LTE in Rural America’ programme. Under the agreement, Verizon Wireless will lease to MTA its 700MHz upper C block wireless spectrum in Denali Borough and much of Matanuska-Susitna Borough. The leased footprint covers approximately 34,000 square miles, and is judged to be the largest upper 700MHz spectrum lease within the programme thus far. Through its participation in the scheme, MTA customers will also have access to LTE in around 230 cities across the US.

Nevertheless, the story may yet have a twist; earlier this week local press reports revealed that Verizon is in the process of laying the groundwork for its own independent entry into the Alaskan cellular market, leasing acreage for cell towers in urban areas from south-central to the interior. Regardless of the tie-up with MTA, it has been suggested that the mobile giant will enter the market in 2013; Verizon subscribers in Alaska currently roam on AlaskaComm’s network. According to the Alaska Dispatch, Verizon’s efforts have run far from smoothly thus far; citizens living near the Gilmore Trail have asked the borough assembly to overturn a permit it granted for a 120-foot cell tower, whilst the company has also had a bid rejected to erect a cell tower on property owned by a local church. That said, last autumn Verizon was authorised by the Anchorage Assembly to build a telecoms facility on property owned by the Anchorage Water and Wastewater Utility.