Cellular South has hired Samsung to build an LTE network and two LTE-capable smartphones across the regional carrier's 700 MHz footprint.
Cellular South will turn on its the next-generation network sometime next year, with Samsung's two LTE smartphones hitting shelves in the fourth quarter of 2011.
"This network will deliver a first-class LTE experience to our customers who want the freedom to access content and services and to communicate in new and innovative ways, whether it's viewing video, listening to their favorite music, gaming or social networking," said Hu Meena, president and CEO of Cellular South, in a press release.
Samsung's LTE smartphones for Cellular South will use voice-over-LTE (VoLTE) instead of falling back to Cellular South's legacy network for voice calls. Cellular South currently carries several Samsung phones, including the Android-based Galaxy S.
Samsung Mobile President Dale Sohn said the LTE smartphones would come equipped with Samsung's Media Hub and Social Hub services. Samsung's Media Hub allows users to download movies and television shows to the Galaxy Tab and Galaxy S devices.
The announcement suggests that Cellular South may be getting an LTE-ready Samsung Galaxy S phone next year. MetroPCS has also hinted it will be carrying LTE smartphones from Samsung next year.
Cellular South plans to expand its LTE network across its 700 MHz footprint in 2012. The company holds licenses for the lower 700 MHz band in several southern markets, including Columbus, Ga., Chattanooga, Tenn., Knoxville, Tenn. and Jackson, Miss.
The regional carrier's decision to build its own LTE network further distances it from Verizon's LTE in Rural America Partnership Program, which provides a limited number of rural carriers to build and operate an LTE network in Verizon's 700 MHz upper C block spectrum in areas where Verizon Wireless has not constructed a network. Bluegrass Cellular is the first carrier to announce its participation in the plan and will use the leased spectrum to construct and operate an LTE network in central Kentucky.
In a wide-ranging filing with the FCC, Cellular South said it would not participate in Verizon's program. "Cellular South will focus on building its own business, not helping Verizon expand its network," it wrote.
The carrier also criticized AT&T and Verizon Wireless for allegedly blocking rural and regional carriers from reasonable data roaming agreements. Cellular South mentioned it had finally landed a data roaming agreement after a year of negotiations with "one of the larger carriers," though it did not specify whose network would be used for data roaming.