Dish Network and nTelos today announced expansion of their fixed mobile broadband service in Virginia. The service is now available in parts of Charlottesville, Waynesboro, Staunton, Harrisonburg and Roanoke.
The companies are promising 10 Mbps download speeds with the service, which is available for $30 to customers with existing Dish satellite-TV service.
“Results from the first phase of the program were encouraging,” nTelos CEO James A. Hyde said in statement. “We are excited to begin this important next step to the original trial by adding customers in select markets, which will allow both companies to further evaluate the viability of a full commercial launch.”
Hyde in May told investors that after re-engaging with Dish following the H Block spectrum auction, that the two companies had substantially completed the core network elements of the service. He anticipated the trial, which was originally announced in 2013, would cover 500,000 POPs and open commercially by July.
David Zufall, Dish’s vice president of wireless, said the current coverage numbers are closer to 250,000 POPs but was less concerned about coverage.
“The goal of the trial is really not coverage. It’s really validating the service, the reach, the cell sites and our ability to meet customer expectations,” Zufall said. “It’s more a limited market trial.”
Zufall said that it’s more than a proof of concept since it was built in a way that it could be rolled out nationwide. Dish updated its billing system and adopted procedures for its technicians specifically for the project. But Dish and nTelos are still trying to validate the coverage, prediction models, and the outdoor router technology being used.
“We’re getting significantly greater coverage than you would for a mobile service at 2.5 [GHz],” Zufall said.
The same team that’s putting nTelos’ 2.5 GHz to use for fixed mobile broadband is working on a similar trial in Texas using Sprint’s 2.5 GHz. The Dish-Sprint fixed mobile broadband trial was announced in December 2013 and expected to roll out by mid-2014 only in Corpus Christi, Texas at first.
Dish has spectrum it needs to put to use and a network sharing agreement with a carrier like Sprint could be a logical answer. In March, Sprint Chairman Masayoshi Son said Dish and his company could partner in “many possible ways,” pointing specifically to their fixed mobile broadband trial. “They can be our great ally,” Son said.