Does Rural America Need a Massive Ma Bell?
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