Dish Network Corp. and nTelos Inc. are teaming up to co-develop a fixed-mobile broadband service covering the U.S. mid-Atlantic region, including Virginia, West Virginia and portions of Maryland, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Kentucky.
The announcement follows news in March of nTelos' plans to build out a 4G LTE network, with select markets launching later this year.
Dish's incursion into fixed-mobile service comes just eight months after the satellite TV provider launched its satellite broadband service through a deal with Viasat. (See Dish Goes Rural with Satellite Broadband.)
The company is marketing its new offering, DishNET, as a service for rural and underserved markets with "speeds as fast as 4G."
But the service also includes data caps that top out at between 5GB and 15GB a month, limits that are drastically lower than any imposed on cable and fiber-based broadband subscribers. So far, DishNet, currently sold in partnership with CenturyLink, has signed up about 66,000 subscribers.
With the nTelos deal, Dish is highlighting its plans to offer coverage to under-served rural communities, unlike the large telcos. In a note to investors, Yankee analyst Rich Karpinski writes that, "While competitors like Verizon and AT&T are pulling back from offering broadband and TV services in non-premium markets, Dish sees a strong opportunity to mix technologies (satellite, mobile broadband and fixed-mobile broadband) to offer quad play services in a range of markets by itself and with operator partners."
Reaching under-served markets is critical to further broadband expansion in the U.S. According to the latest data from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), more than one third of fixed Internet subscriptions nationally don't qualify as broadband, while more than 70 percent of mobile connections don't meet the minimum broadband threshold. (See US Still Suffers Broadband Divide.)
— Mari Silbey, Special to Light Reading Cable