Open Range Communications, which plans to deploy WiMax broadband wireless service in 546 rural communities in the U.S., has signed a $100 million, five-year contract for products and services with equipment provider Alvarion.
Open Range has received funding under the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Rural Utilities Service (RUS) program spanning 17 states and reaching up to 6 million people. The Greenwood Village, Colo.-based company expects to begin offering WiMax services to "unserved and underserved" customers in rural areas in the fourth quarter of this year.
In the U.S., Clearwire is aiming to be the largest provider of WiMax services with plans to launch service in 80 markets reaching up to 120 million people by the end of 2010.
Clearwire this week officially launched WiMax service in Atlanta, its biggest market to date. Its investors include Sprint Nextel, Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Bright House Networks, Intel and Google.
Alvarion will provide radio-access equipment, customer-premises devices and systems-integration services for Open Range's broadband wireless network.
Open Range has received an investment of $100 million from One Equity Partners, the private equity arm of JPMorgan Chase & Co., and last year the company was approved for a $267 million loan under the USDA's RUS program.
Separately, the federal government has set aside $7.2 billion in grants and loans for broadband deployments aimed at unserved and underserved communities, as part of a larger economic-stimulus package enacted earlier this year.
Open Range plans to offer data and voice wireless communications, providing at least 1.5 Mbps down and 512 Kbps up for less than $40 per month.
"Open Range's unique business model focuses on delivering wireless high-speed Internet and voice services to unserved and underserved communities," Open Range CEO Bill Beans Jr. said in a statement. "These communities require an innovative partner with experience in delivering a wide array of simple, high quality, cost effective, robust solutions that are scalable and sustainable. Alvarion's passion and heritage in deploying wireless broadband globally with its expanded advanced capabilities make them an ideal partner for Open Range."
The 17 states Open Range plans to deploy WiMax include New York, New Jersey, Illinois, Indiana, California, Pennsylvania, Florida, Nevada and Colorado.
Alvarion was the first WiMax equipment supplier to receive USDA acceptance as well as "Buy American" status from the USDA RUS for two of its BreezeMAX base stations in July 2008. Both RUS and "Buy American" designations are required for operators requesting federal funds from the Rural Broadband Access Loan program for the purpose of purchasing and deploying broadband systems.
Israel-based Alvarion has engaged in more than 250 commercial WiMax deployments worldwide. Its customers include Alltel, Cable & Wireless, Taiwan's Chungwa Telecom, Japan's NTT West and India's Airtel. Alvarion's North America headquarters is in Mountain View, Calif.
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