The Virgin Islands (US) is poised to witness the introduction of Long Term Evolution (LTE) technology courtesy of Sprint Nextel’s local unit, leaked information has revealed. According to independent blog www.s4gru.com, which charts the rollout progress of Sprint’s ongoing ‘Network Vision’ project using inside information, telecoms vendor Samsung and its regional subcontractors are set to commence work in the dual Puerto Rico/Virgin Islands (US) markets this month. Work on the first 22 sites is expected to get underway this month, and following the completion of ‘Network Vision’ in the region, 266 sites will be deployed across the two markets, of which the bulk (249) will be situated on the main island of Puerto Rico, with a further three sites on the Puerto Rican isles of Vieques and Culebra. Meanwhile, the Virgin Islands (US) will have eight sites on the island of St Thomas, five on St Croix and one on St John. Sprint is expected to use its existing 1900MHz PCS spectrum to offer LTE in the Virgin Islands; in the US plans are underway for the cellco to re-use its 800MHz iDEN spectrum for LTE, with 3GPP certification for ‘Band Class 26’ already received.
The Virgin Islands (US) is an unusual telecoms market, insofar as its wireless sector contains a mixture of local companies – Innovative Telephone (formerly Vitelcom) and Choice Wireless – and regional offshoots of US operators. AT&T and Sprint are believed to have long-established spectrum allocations covering the islands, and T-Mobile USA acquired frequencies in the Virgin Islands (US) following its 2007 purchase of SunCom Wireless Holdings, although it is unclear if they were ever used. Of the major US cellcos, only Verizon lacks a direct presence on the island, relying on international roaming agreements with its rivals. The market falls under the regulatory control of US telecoms watchdog, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).