After initially planning on a fourth quarter 2011 deployment for its LTE network, regional carrier C Spire — which serves Mississippi and a few other parts of the US Southeast and recently made waves for picking up the iPhone 4S — now finds itself in early 2012 without a live 4G deployment. What gives? C Spire hasn't given any revised guidance at this point, commenting to FierceWireless last October that it couldn't "talk about any dates."
It seems possible that C Spire was banking on an FCC ruling requiring AT&T handsets to support smaller carriers' LTE bands (which are adjacent to AT&T's 700MHz holdings) because it would make LTE hardware considerably cheaper for operators like C Spire to obtain handsets — they'd effectively be able to hop on to AT&T's economy of scale. There'd been a concerted effort to make that a condition of AT&T's acquisition of Qualcomm's 700MHz spectrum, but the FCC ultimately declined to push it through when it approved the sale last month. That likely makes C Spire's 4G endeavors a little more expensive, to say the least — and in turn, that could account for the delay. For now, though, it's not saying.