Does Rural America Need a Massive Ma Bell?

6:10 PM With the AT&T-T-Mobile merger on rocky ground, I wonder how much the combo would actually benefit rural users in the near future

Dan Jones, Mobile Editor

September 6, 2011

1 Min Read
Does Rural America Need a Massive Ma Bell?

6:10 PM -- With the Antitrust Division of the U.S. Department of Justice on AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T)'s case and Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S) suing, the $39 billion T-Mobile US Inc. acquisition looks to be on much shakier ground than it was two weeks ago.

One of the selling points in the initial merger promotion from AT&T was how it would benefit rural users with near blanket coverage of Long Term Evolution (LTE). But AT&T says the combined company would complete a 97 percent footprint of nationwide 4G service within six years, so it is worth asking how long it would take before rural users would actually feel a mobile broadband boost.

We know that AT&T, even prior to its T-Mobile takeover plans, wanted to cover 80 percent of the population with LTE by the end of 2013. The vast majority of those users are likely to be in urban areas. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, around 79.2 percent of Americans currently live in cities and towns. [Ed note: 83.7 percent, according to the latest Census data.]

AT&T seems to have given itself several years after the 2013 target to get to an 80 percent LTE footprint to scale to the other 20 percent. In part, this is understandable -- T-Mobile doesn't even have its own towers in some parts of the country and rents space from other tower operators. So it could be costly to build out the modern capacity and backhaul to support LTE.

Nonetheless, it seems like whatever happens with AT&T and T-Mobile, at least some rural users are still looking at a long wait for 4G LTE.

— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Light Reading Mobile

About the Author(s)

Dan Jones

Mobile Editor

Dan is to hats what Will.I.Am is to ridiculous eyewear. Fedora, trilby, tam-o-shanter -- all have graced the Jones pate during his career as the go-to purveyor of mobile essentials.

But hey, Dan is so much more than 4G maps and state-of-the-art headgear. Before joining the Light Reading team in 2002 he was an award-winning cult hit on Broadway (with four 'Toni' awards, two 'Emma' gongs and a 'Brian' to his name) with his one-man show, "Dan Sings the Show Tunes."

His perfectly crafted blogs, falling under the "Jonestown" banner, have been compared to the works of Chekhov. But only by Dan.

He lives in Brooklyn with cats.

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