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Optical/IP Networks

Shentel halts fixed wireless buildout in favor of fiber

Shentel has cancelled its plans to offer fixed wireless Internet services to tens of thousands of Americans. Instead, the company plans to drastically extend the reach of its Glo-branded fiber network.

The reason is twofold, according to the company's chief operating officer.

"First, our success in securing Glo fiber franchise agreements [with cities] and ramping up construction," explained Shentel's Ed McKay during the company's quarterly earnings call last week, according to a Seeking Alpha transcript of the event. "And second, the large influx of government broadband funding over the past quarter."

Shentel's withdrawal from fixed wireless represents a major reversal from the company's previous plans. Shentel has been building a business around LTE fixed wireless technologies since around 2019, and has spent millions of dollars on spectrum licenses for the offering. Earlier this year, the company disclosed plans to cover up to 215,000 households with its Beam-branded fixed wireless Internet offering by 2026, up from around 24,000 covered today.

But last week, during its earnings call, Shentel essentially said it will drop those plans.

"We are pausing our Beam [fixed wireless] expansion plans," explained Shentel CEO Christopher French. He said that Shentel now will only employ its fixed wireless technologies in locations where doing so would align with government funding grants to cross the digital divide.

Instead of building out fixed wireless technologies, Shentel said it would focus on building fiber – that plan dovetails with state and federal goals to deploy "future-proof" networks, company officials said.

Shentel previously planned to build fiber to 300,000 locations by 2026 but has now expanded that goal to 450,000.

Broadly, Shentel executives said they hope to receive additional cash from government programs to fund the construction of telecom networks in rural areas. Indeed, Congress appears poised to approve legislation that would funnel roughly $42 billion to states for networks to bridge the digital divide. Already Shentel said it plans to cover 32,000 households via such grants.

Shentel offers a mix of cable, fiber and fixed wireless service across parts of Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania.

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Mike Dano, Editorial Director, 5G & Mobile Strategies, Light Reading | @mikeddano

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