LAS VEGAS--Arizona-based Space Data will use its nationwide 900 MHz spectrum to extend iDEN services in the United States, particularly in rural areas, the company announced this week at the International Wireless Communication Expo (IWCE) at the Las Vegas Convention Center.

Space Data recently announced consolidation of nationwide spectrum at 901-902 MHz, and Motorola did the technical work to extend the iDEN band by 78 new channels—Motorola’s third extension of the technology.

Best known for using weather balloons to launch base stations into near space to provide wireless services, Space Data hopes to support iDEN services on its SkySite solutions, but the immediate offering is a more traditional approach to leverage Space Data’s digital iDEN switch, Space Data Chairman and CEO Gerald Knoblach said.

“This is just a standard terrestrial setting,” Knoblach said during an interview with MRT.

Motorola has indicated that it will stop supporting analog iDEN in a couple of year, which means existing customers need to transition to the digital iDEN platform. However, many don’t have the necessary spectrum—something that is becoming even more scarce with Sprint Nextel securing airwaves to support its commercial network during 800 MHz rebanding—and it’s difficult to justify the economics associated with purchasing a $1 million digital switch for a campus security force or other work groups that value iDEN’s push-to-talk capability, Knoblach said.

“They want a private network, but it doesn’t make sense to buy a digital switch that services 25,000 subs for 500 people,” he said. “In that situation, they can buy a base station, hook it to our switch and pay for the T1 backhaul cost from our switch here in Phoenix and their base station. If they don’t have spectrum, they can rent our spectrum; if they do have spectrum, they can use that.”