US wireless giant AT&T Mobility has published a list of 77 new markets that it says will witness the introduction of Long Term Evolution (LTE) by ‘the end of the summer’. Alongside a number of markets in states such as Texas, California, Alabama and New Jersey, the cellco will also extend its 4G footprint to the unincorporated territory of the US Virgin Islands. The islands of St Croix and St Thomas have both been earmarked for inclusion in the rollout, and the eventual launch is likely to represent the first LTE network to go live on the Virgin Islands.
As previously reported by TeleGeography’s CommsUpdate, rival mobile operator Sprint Nextel has also disclosed plans to introduce LTE connectivity to the territory. In April 2012 leaked company information revealed that Sprint intends to construct eight LTE sites on the island of St Thomas, five on St Croix and one on St John; the cellco is expected to use its existing 1900MHz PCS spectrum to offer LTE.
The US Virgin Islands 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 have long-established spectrum allocations covering the islands, while T-Mobile USA acquired frequencies in the Virgin Islands following its 2007 purchase of SunCom Wireless Holdings, although it lacks a fully-fledged commercial presence there. 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).