Cellular South announced on Monday a multi-million dollar investment that will bring an additional 166 cell sites into the wireless provider’s footprint, sites that are sprinkled throughout 39 Mississippi counties in the northern and coastal regions of the state.
Representatives claim the current build-out, which affects more than 300 cell sites, will make 3G high-speed data technology available to 80 percent of businesses and consumers in Mississippi. Cellular South spokesman Jim Richmond said that customers from Senatobia to Kiln would enjoy a multimedia payoff from the deployment including faster uploads and downloads, higher-quality music and smoother mobile video sharing.
“Our industry-leading 3G network will touch customers that wouldn’t otherwise have access- giving them unmatched data and voice capability and reliability,” said Cellular South president and CEO Hu Meena. Existing cell sites- fixtures that house equipment and antennas to transmit wireless signals – have been upgraded to accommodate the company’s increased sale of 3G “data centric products” like its line of Dell Inspiron Netbooks, RIM BlackBerries and the new Android-powered HTC Hero which debuts this fall.
“We operate in rural areas compared to a lot of the country,” Richmond said. “Our philosophy and business model has tried to develop the same quality, speed and application in these places that is available in Atlanta or New York City.”
Richmond added that support teams and contractors moved fairly quickly on the project adding T1 and 3G lines and other equipment to the base of existing sites all within a matter of weeks. “On most of the new construction, we build monopoles or ‘slick sticks,’” Richmond said. “These resemble a large flag pole and do not have all of the various antennas sticking out from the top.”
Everything from engineering options and the lay of the land to city ordinances and structures around the site all help determine what type of site is used in a certain area.
According to reports from the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), third-generation technology was first launched in 2000 to improve the performance and capability standards of the world’s existing 2G wireless technology. Richmond said that Cellular South first began 3G upgrades in 2006, beginning with Mississippi’s major metropolitan areas before moving on to smaller cities like Brookhaven, Greenwood and Starkville the following year.
The Mississippi Delta was heavily covered by expansions in 2008 and Richmond said the new build-out would bring 3G to places located along rural highways like Wiggins, Lucedale and Picayune. Cellular South customers living in the cities of Brandon, Canton, Florence, Pelahatchie, Puckett, Sandhill and Terry in central Mississippi will also be brought online with the expansion.
Richmond said that the Cellular South continues to study what many analysts in the wireless industry are calling “fourth-generation” or “4G” technology known as Long Term Evolution (LTE). The technology is still in theory, however, and Richmond said that his company and other carriers would in the meantime focus on more 3G expansions in the coming months.