Less than a month after striking a fixed wireless partnership that will target broadband-needy areas, Dish Network and nTelos announced Thursday that a tech trial in rural Virginia yielded broadband speeds in the range of 20 Mbps to 50 Mbps.
The trial, conducted in the Blue Ridge Mountains near Wanesboro and Afton, Va., used ruggedized outdoor routers with built-in high-gain antennas to receive the 2.5 GHz Long Term Evolution (LTE) signals. Ericsson and Alcatel-Lucent provided the gear and assisted in the installation, Dish and nTELOS said. nTelos and Dish activated two wireless towers for the tests.
Dish and fixed wireless broadband service operator nTELOS teamed up in May, agreeing to collaborate on a wireless network designed to serve primarily underserved markets in nTELOS’s existing service territory in Virginia, West Virginia and parts of Maryland, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Kentucky. The deal came together about a year after Dish forged a similar deal with ViaSat to provide a national fixed broadband service called DishNet. Verizon Communications launched a fixed-broadband LTE service called HomeFusion more than a year ago in select markets that offers download speeds of 5 Mbps to 12 Mbps and 2 Mbps to 5 Mbps on the uplink.
Dish and nTelos declined to say when the trail would end or when it they intend to launch the service. nTelos has about 451,000 customers today, and serves as the exclusive wholesale provider of wireless digital PCS services to Sprint in Western Virginia and West Virginia for all Sprint CDMA wireless customers.
“With nearly a fifth of American households underserved by broadband, a fixed wireless solution delivering true broadband speeds will bring improved broadband options to potentially millions of consumers,” said Dish EVP of corporate development Tom Cullen, in a statement. “Dish has a nationwide workforce of professional technicians that can be dispatched to install both a satellite dish for our video service and an antenna for broadband on the same roof at the same time.”
The test comes against the backdrop of Dish’s ever-evolving wireless strategy. On Thursday, Clearwire’s board unanimously recommended that shareholders vote in favor of Dish’s sweetened acquisition bid of $4.40 per share, jilting Sprint Nextel’s bid of $3.40 per share. In April, Dish launched a $25.5 billion bid to acquire Sprint, but Sprint on Monday said it accepted a smaller $21.6 billion counter offer from Softbank of Japan.
More recently, Dish chairman Charlie Ergen put up a personal bid of $2 billion for spectrum held by bankrupt mobile broadband operator LightSquared.
As part of the $700 million Dish is paying to Cablevision Systems to settle the Voom lawsuit, Dish has put up $80 million to buy Cablevision’s 500MHz of Multichannel Video and Data Distribution (MVDDS) licenses covering 150 million people in 45 metro areas, including New York, Lose Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco, and Philadelphia. Cablevision is using a portion of those licenses to power OMGFAST!, a wireless broadband service that currently serves Broward County and Palm Beach County, Fla.
Those MVDDS licenses are not playing a role in the Virginia trial with nTelos, a Dish spokeswoman said.
-- Mike Farrell contributed to this story