U.S. Cellular, the nation’s fifth largest wireless carrier, has some plans for fixed wireless up its sleeve for 2017.
At an investor conference on Wednesday, U.S. Cellular CEO Kenneth Meyers reported the carrier is planning to conduct additional fixed wireless testing in the first half of the new year. U.S. Cellular first revealed fixed wireless testing with Nokia back in October, which it said produced “very promising” results.
Meyers said the 2017 tests will be conducted on the carrier’s current spectrum, “without getting into 5G” or other bands. But the trials, he indicated, could potentially result in a fixed wireless broadband offering from the company.
“We’ll be doing some fixed wireless in the current band work in the next year,” Meyers said. “In rural America, there’s a place where the cable footprint stops that we may be able to offer some nice options around broadband.”
Meyers reiterated U.S. Cellular will also be working this year to roll out Voice-over-LTE (VoLTE) technology across its network, which he said will help with roaming arrangements.
Though Meyers indicated U.S. Cellular will have to be prudent this year in choosing which promotions to go up against in a competitive market, he did note there would still be opportunities to gain an edge over its wireless rivals. One of those, he noted, would be an increase in Universal Services Fund spending from the government.
Meyers said the carrier currently pulls in around $96 million annually in federal support, but reported that figure was down nearly 40 percent from the $160 million U.S. Cellular was receiving a few years ago. According to Meyers, the Obama administration wanted to drive spending levels down, but instead simply froze funding levels. That freeze, he implied, could thaw under a Trump administration.
“I think with all the talk about infrastructure projects … there may be opportunities that instead of being defensive around that revenue stream, we can actually be more aggressive in our positioning about what role wireless can pay in helping to connect America,” Meyers commented. “We’ve built strong relationships with many key members of the different congressional bodies that oversee this … Perhaps with different people we’ve got a better growth opportunity.”