According to MuniWireless and Fierce Wireless, the rural wireless industry is about to lose one of its more visible alternative pillars. Open Range, which two years ago had lined up $100M in private equity and $267M in subsidized government loans, seems to be in the process of imploding. CEO Bill Beans has resigned and 'massive' (e.g. 70%) layoffs are underway.
Open Range did a deal with Level 3 two years ago for extended on-net services, in which the fiber operator would open up some of its more far-flung huts. Then just this year, they shifted some gears and signed partnership for rural LTE with LightSquared. But unless those drastic efforts underway pull off a stunning turnaround, it won't matter much to Open Range whether LightSquared gets started on schedule.
But actual deployments by the company have been rather hush hush, and it seems they have never actually picked up many actual customers either. The rural wireless business is not an easy one, those successful at it tend to have extensive local knowledge and don't spread their efforts out that much. Open Range had targeted 500 communities in 17 states - far too ambitious it seems.
Hmmm, $267M... One wonders if Congress might turn its eye toward this bundle of subsidized government loans soon too.
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