Private Networks

Southern Linc plots exit from Florida

Southern Linc said it plans to stop offering LTE services in Florida at the end of this month.

"Our Florida customers have been notified of this coverage change. When our customers with home service in Alabama, Mississippi and Georgia travel to the panhandle, they will roam on one of our roaming partners," Southern Linc's Lynda Swaney confirmed in an email to Light Reading. She said the company's customers have been warned twice in writing about the situation, but that the company didn't provide any recommendations on alternative service providers.

Swaney added that Southern Linc has no plans to liquidate its spectrum holdings in Florida. She said the company's LTE equipment is being redeployed into other parts of its service territory. She declined to provide any financial details about the situation.

Swaney said the move has been in the planning stages since NextEra Energy completed its purchase of Florida's Gulf Power Company from Southern Company in 2019. That's because wireless network operator Southern Linc is a subsidiary of utility provider Southern Company, and Southern Linc serves the territories where Southern Company owns electric utilities. That territory now spans Georgia, Alabama and Southeast Mississippi – and not Florida.

(Source:  dpa picture alliance / Alamy Stock Photo)
(Source: dpa picture alliance / Alamy Stock Photo)

Southern Linc is one of dozens of smaller wireless network operators in the US. Such companies typically operate tens or hundreds of cell sites and offer services to residents covered by their network. They typically rely heavily on roaming revenues from bigger wireless network operators like Verizon and AT&T.

The number of these smaller US wireless network operators has been dwindling over the years as companies like Verizon work to consolidate them. Others have faded out of the industry as bigger network operators expand into their coverage areas.

Southern Linc is somewhat unique in the industry though considering its network was initially designed as a private wireless network for Southern Company's utility operations and technicians. Southern Linc then sprang from that network in order to sell commercial wireless services.

Several utilities are now looking to develop the kind of commercial-grade wireless network that Southern Linc has long operated. For example, utility giant Ameren plans to use Anterix's 900MHz spectrum licenses for a private LTE network. And Southern California Edison and Sempra Energy were among the utilities that purchased CBRS spectrum in 2020, likely for a similar network. However, none has expressed interest in entering the commercial wireless industry.

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

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