Tiny nTelos will join the 4G club, launching LTE in the Virginias this year

T-Mobile wasn’t the only U.S. mobile operator with big LTE news this week. nTelos, a small carrier operating in the central-eastern U.S., announced Wednesday it is constructing its own LTE network and will have a live 4G service up and running in Virginia and West Virginia later this year.
Even if you don’t happen to live in nTelos’s operating territory of 6 million people in the Virginias, Kentucky, Maryland, North Carolina and Ohio, its name might still ring a bell. That’s because nTelos was one of the first small providers to land the iPhone during Apple’s(s aapl) big carrier partner expansion of 2012. Many people, including us, noted the irony that a tiny rural carrier could sell the iPhone, while a U.S. giant like T-Mobile could not. (T-Mobile, in addition to launching LTE this week, also joined the iPhone club).
nTelos has tapped Alcatel-Lucent(s alu) for the whole LTE kit and caboodle. The Franco-American vendor will supply the wireless infrastructure, including its ultra-compact remote radio heads, and the LTE mobile data core. Alcatel-Lucent will also replace parts of nTelos’s older 2G CDMA network with a new 3G CDMA EV-DO architecture, giving customers faster data rates when they aren’t in 4G coverage.
No word yet on where exactly in the Virginias nTelos will launch, though its headquarters in Waynesboro, Va., might be a good bet. According to RCRWireless, nTelos holds both PCS licenses and Advanced Wireless Services (AWS) licenses, which means its devices could line up with those of Sprint(s s) or MetroPCS(s pcs).