A local communications provider is one of three statewide that received federal money to upgrade mobile service in rural areas of New Mexico that lack 3G or 4G wireless service.
According to a release from Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., Plateau Telecommunications Inc. received $9.6 million to upgrade service across seven counties in the central and southeastern areas of the state. The project will provide up to 17,920 road miles served by the upgrades, with projects set for completion within three years.
A road mile, Plateau Chief Financial Officer David Robinson said, is a unit given to every mile of any road. There are 60 road miles covered from a direct route from Clovis to Fort Sumner, for instance, but a tower and cell site can hit several different roadways in its coverage area.
The total $17.9 million for New Mexico is part of $300 million provided nationwide through the Mobility Fund, created through the Federal Communications Commiss-ion reforming its Universal Service Program. The fund was created to close gaps in mobile coverage across the country, and is paid for through savings realized last year from University Service reforms. The current phase is targeting upgrades in 31 states.
“What it will mean for the users on highways that are sparsely populated, there will be 4G coverage on those highways,” Robinson said. “You have less customers in a rural area per square mile, so it makes it tougher on the economic side to justify putting a cell site in.”
Carriers competed against others across the country, and winners were chosen based on the lowest cost-per-mile bids to extend coverage to unserved roads.
“In today’s society, we depend on reliable communication for work, travel and our day-to-day activities,” Udall said. “Improved wireless communication will greatly benefit the livelihood of those who live in these areas while providing new opportunities for businesses and economic growth.”
The infrastructure built by Plateau will be available for customers of Plateau or any carrier that has a roaming agreement with the company. That list includes AT&T and T-Mobile, but Robinson said Plateau would be happy to enter agreements with other carriers.
Udall serves on the Senate’s Subcommittee on Communications, Technology and the Internet. The subcommittee has jurisdiction over policy concerning cell phones, wireless broadband and oversight of the FCC.
Plateau’s upgrades will serve seven counties — Curry, De Baca, Guadalupe, Quay, Roosevelt, San Miguel and Torrance.
• In Curry County, 720 miles will be served with a pair of contracts totaling approximately $521,000.
• In Roosevelt County, 98 miles will be served with a pair of contracts totaling approximately $1.132 million.
Other providers winning bids were Leaco Rural Telephone Cooperative (12 bids, $6.735 million) and T-Mobile West (one bid, $1.84 million).
A breakdown of the approximate 4,642 miles in rural areas of New Mexico to receive upgraded mobile service infrastructure through Plateau Telecommunications
County Miles served Winning bid
Curry* 720 $520,891.87
De Baca 907 $829,981.35
Guadalupe 455 $2,613,378.96
Quay 1,036 $1,561,511.16
Roosevelt* 97 $1,132,237.68
San Miguel 515 $1,051,797.76
Torrance 323 $1,610,204.85
* Combination of two bids
On the Net: Information on bids