A year and a half after naming Samsung as its LTE vendor, C Spire Wireless said today that Alcatel-Lucent is building and deploying the network ahead of its September debut.
The announcement comes after C Spire was forced to delay the launch of the service by nine months because it couldn't get smartphones compatible with its 700 MHz band 12 spectrum, an issue that prompted a lawsuit against AT&T and forced it to abandon plans to use its 700 MHz spectrum for the initial LTE launch.
C Spire spokesman Dave Miller declined to say whether the operator had dropped its LTE contract with Samsung, but said "Samsung remains a valued partner." Alcatel-Lucent has a longstanding relationship with C Spire and helped the company with the expansion of its CDMA network.
The initial LTE launch later this summer will span 1.2 million people living in the operator's home state of Mississippi. The $60 million investment includes 360 cell cites spanning 2,700 square miles. Alcatel-Lucent will provide base stations, backhaul, wireless packet core and the IMS network core, which will eventually allow C Spire to deploy voice-over-LTE.
“In addition to the IMS core, we’ll be using state-of-the-art design and solutions, such as fiber and Ethernet backhaul, at every site and the latest Remote Radio Head (RRH) and four-branch diversity receiver technology for the base stations," Eric Hollingsworth, vice president of network operations, said in a statement.
Alcatel-Lucent will also provide professional and network integration services.
C Spire said it has made "significant progress" in rolling out its LTE network since it announced its revised deploymnet plans in March. Hollingsworth said the company has installed and tested all of the major core network elements and completed installing base stations and Ethernet backhaul at more than 70 percent of the sites slated for LTE.
C Spire, then named Cellular South, said in November 2010 that it had hired Samsung to build an LTE network and provide it with two LTE smartphones. The service was slated to use the operator's A block and B block spectrum in the lower 700 MHz band, also called band 12 spectrum.
The network was slated to go live at the end of 2011, but it never launched. Months later, C Spire told Wireless Week the delay had been caused by its inability to procure devices compatible with its band 12 holdings, a niche band class with a less mature ecosystem than the spectrum held by AT&T and Verizon Wireless.
The lack of devices for band 12 was the subject of a lawsuit filed by C Spire against AT&T, Qualcomm and Motorola Mobility this spring. The complaint alleged the carrier and its vendors purposely colluded to block development of band 12 phones, a strategy C Spire claims was designed to put it out of business.
A hearing on motions to dismiss the case has been scheduled for July 17.