Bluegrass Cellular flipped the switch today on its LTE network in Kentucky through its participation in Verizon's rural LTE program.

The network spans five counties with a population of 348,000 people, including Fort Knox and the I-65 corridor between Louisville, Ken. and Nashville, Tenn.

Other Kentucky cities covered by the network include Bowling Green, Elizabethtown, Glasgow, Radcliff and Bardstown.

The service will expand into an unnamed number of "additional areas" next year.

Bluegrass is running the network on 700 MHz upper C block licenses it leased from Veizon Wireless. Bluegrass built and operates the network, which covers markets where Verizon has not rolled out LTE.

In exchange, Bluegrass customers are able to roam onto Verizon's nationwide LTE network. Subscribers with Verizon and the other regional carriers in the program can roam onto Bluegrass Cellular's LTE network.

Ron Smith, president of the regional wireless provider, said in the announcement that Bluegrass Cellular's decision two years ago to sign on to Verizon's LTE in Rural America program was the "fastest approach to provide 4G LTE to our customers both locally and nationwide."

Verizon reports that 18 carriers in 14 states now participate in the program, covering a combined 2.7 million people and 144,000 square miles.

Wisconsin-based Cellcom and Oklahoma’s Pioneer Cellular were the first to light up LTE through the initiative in May, comprising two of the eight LTE launches Verizon planned to facilitate this year. Nine additional LTE launches through the program are expected in 2013.

The LTE launch came three days after Bluegrass Cellular began offering the LTE-capable iPhone 5 at a $50 discount from its national competitors.

At the time, the carrier said it "will allow iPhone 5 customers to connect to its fast 3G network" without making mention of whether they would be able to take advantage of the iPhone 5's LTE capability. It could not be immediately reached for clarification.