In a conference call yesterday with investors, Sprint Regional Affiliate, Shenandoah Telecommunications (aka Shentel) provided a little more clarity with their Network Vision and LTE plans for the next 24 months, as well as some details of their new agreement with Sprint Nextel. "The amendment creates a win-win situation for both Sprint Nextel and Shentel and allows us to upgrade our network in accordance with Sprint’s Network Vision plans," stated Christopher French, Shentel President and CEO
Network Vision in Greater Shenandoah...
"Planning and preconstruction work is already underway, and we expect to start our deployment late in the second quarter," continued Mr. French. Shentel also stated that new Network Vision sites will start to come live in their service areas in the 3rd Quarter 2012. This will include LTE on 1900 PCS G-block.
800MHz deployment will begin at some point after iDEN is decommissioned in Shentel service areas, improving in building service and overall coverage. Shentel is planning for additional capacity, as they anticipate growing subscriber growth from iDEN conversions and increased customer demand response from improving network conditions.
Alcatel/Lucent is the Network Vision partner for Sprint in the region and will also provide NV services and equipment to Shentel. Shentel will be able to purchase network equipment and services from Alcatel Lucent at the same price they are sold to Sprint.
Shentel is upgrading backhaul at every one of their 510 cell sites to microwave or fiber, allowing considerably more backhaul than they need at the moment. This will allow the backhaul to be scalable for future expansion. At some tower sites, where possible, Shentel will even provide their own fiber connection. Estimating possibly as high as 30% of their sites will be connected to their own fiber network. Shentel actually has been slowly upgrading their sites to fiber for the past few years within their past capex schemes.
All this work, costs lots of money...
Shentel estimates that Network Vision upgrades will cost the Sprint regional affiliate approximately $115 Million through 2013. Mr. French loosely committed, "Shentel will use our best efforts to complete the upgrade by December 31, 2013." Shentel is planning to get over half of their network converted this year. Just under 300 sites are identified for conversion in 2012, with the remaining 200 to be completed in 2013.
"Our current contract has limits on the level of capital expenditures that Sprint can require Shentel to make in our network. Those limits remain in effect." I'm sure that Shentel needs to have some sort of limit in place, but this quote caused me pause. What is the limit? It was not disclosed in this call.
The new agreement allows Shentel to actively convert existing Sprint Nextel iDEN customers directly over to Shentel CDMA customers. And at a later date this year, Shentel Direct Connect (based on Sprint Direct Connect). Mr. French clarified, "Shentel will benefit from the migration of adding customers in our service area. Sprint will have a migration plan to move the postpaid and prepaid customers currently on the iDEN network, and we anticipate this will begin later this year and be completed by the end of 2013."
The new agreement also allows Shentel to host companies like LightSquared. Should Sprint ever make a hosting agreement with another company, or if LightSquared should ever get legs under it, then Shentel will be able to also host and get paid for this hosting as well.
The newly implemented affiliate contract extends the Shentel/Sprint agreement through 2024, with provisions in place for two ten year contact extensions.
Thanks to S4GRU Member Rawvega for tipping me off to the transcripts of this conference call.