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SouthernLINC Begins Move From iDEN to LTE

By J. Sharpe Smith

January 22, 2015 — SouthernLINC Wireless, a commercial push-to-talk carrier with coverage in Alabama, Georgia, southeast Mississippi and northwest Florida, is designing an 800-MHz LTE network with construction beginning this year. The network should be fully operational by 2018 with deployment on as many as 500 LTE sites.

“There is an expanded need from our parent company and largest customer for higher bandwidth mobile applications to support its business. They need a higher data throughput, which iDEN as a 2G technology could not provide,” said Lynda Swaney, SouthernLINC spokesperson.

The announcement of the new network technology marks the beginning of the end of one of the last public iDEN networks. Sprint Nextel turned its iDEN system off in 2013. Airpeak provides iDEN service to a small swath of rural areas in California, east of Palm Springs, and there are private systems that are still operational domestically, including one that ARINC uses at airports, as well as internationally.

SouthernLINC officials said they are still committed to iDEN and they have a push-to-talk contract with Georgia Technology Authority that runs through 2017.

“Motorola is moving away from supporting the iDEN technology, but we have iDEN service agreements to get us through the build out of the LTE,” Swaney said.

The last year has been devoted to planning and site selection for the new network. In 2015, SouthernLINC plans to complete construction of the LTE systems in Atlanta and Birmingham, Alabama. Next year, all of Georgia and Alabama will be built out, with the rest of the footprint coming in 2017 and 2018.

“The iDEN and LTE systems will be run simultaneously until the voice component is deployed on the LTE network,” Swaney said. “Once we deploy VoLTE, we will retire iDEN.”
SouthernLINC Taps Ericsson for RAN

Ericsson will provide SouthernLINC with its Evolved Packet Core, which includes an Evolved Packet Gateway on the SSR 8000 family and mobility management entity. In addition, the radio access network will include the RBS 6000 multistandard base station portfolio. The agreement also includes services for network rollout, integration and support, deployment services and network management.

In the new LTE base stations SouthernLINC will use Plug Power’s hydrogen fuel cell-based backup power system, known as ReliOn, which supplements batteries and replaces backup diesel-fuel generators.

The ReliOn solution includes fuel cell systems and bulk refillable hydrogen storage, DC plant rectifiers and distribution, battery technology and an outdoor cabinet.

The integrated system provides a complete communications equipment shelter and a highly reliable, clean, cost-effective grid and backup power system for 24/7 operations. The system enables rapid deployment with a limited footprint.

“Our systems have to be reliable in storms and natural disasters,” Swaney said. “We will use hardened sites with the LTE network just as we did with iDEN. The new network will have extra battery backup in our service territory, because that is what a power company requires as the first responders in a storm or emergency.”

iDEN was developed in the early 1990s as a way to use noncontiguous spectrum in the 800-MHz band. It was primarily used by Nextel to provide push-to-talk and wireless voice telephone service to the public and businesses.