SHIPROCK — The Navajo Nation plans to celebrate the opening of Choice Wireless today at the Navajo Tribal Utility Authority office here.

"We are ready to celebrate. This partnership will provide the people of the Navajo Nation with high-speed Internet access in places where service has historically been poor or unavailable," said Choice Wireless General Manager Clyde Casciato.

Choice Wireless is a brand of NTUA Wireless and owned by the Navajo tribe.

The Shiprock store is located in the NTUA District Office and the celebration of the new company is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m.

The event includes giveaways, food, raffles and live entertainment.

"We plan for (this) to be a very festive celebration," Casciato said.

Cell phones sit out Thursday at the new Choice Wireless store at the Navajo Tribal Utility Authority District Office in Shiprock.  The company provides
Cell phones sit out Thursday at the new Choice Wireless store at the Navajo Tribal Utility Authority District Office in Shiprock. The company provides unlimited plans for cell phone, Internet and home phone services. (Alexa Rogals The Daily Times)

The company is part of NTUA, but prospective buyers don't have to be NTUA customers to sign up for the new service.

Products include wireless modems, phones, tablets and phone covers. Services start at $30 a month for unlimited voice and text services without data, to $79 a month for unlimited voice and text with six gigabytes of data.

But the company is the last leg in a wireless buildup that started in 2009.

The service finalizes the creation of a 4G Long Term Evolution, or LTE, network on the Navajo Nation that was funded by an American Reinvestment and Recovery Act grant. The construction started in 2009 with a $32 million grant and NTUA provided about $15 million to help build the network.

"NTUA Wireless is a partnership between NTUA and Comment wireless, We're a company majority owned by (the) Navajo tribe," said Wayne Gibson, vice president of distribution at Commnet Wireless.

NTUA Wireless, which formed in 2011, is a joint venture between the Navajo Tribal Utility Authority, which owns 51 percent, and Commnet, a subsidiary of Atlantic Tele-Network, which owns the rest.

Navajo Tribal Utility Authority General Manager Walter Haase said the network will help Navajo communities by linking them to the rest of the world.

The grand opening sign hangs Thursday at the new Choice Wireless store in the Navajo Tribal Utility Authority District Office in Shiprock.
The grand opening sign hangs Thursday at the new Choice Wireless store in the Navajo Tribal Utility Authority District Office in Shiprock. (Alexa Rogals The Daily Times)

"This service will bolster business and provide educational and employment opportunities far greater than ever before," he said in a press release. "The digital divide has been reduced significantly."

NTUA Wireless has been opening up other offices on the Navajo Nation throughout the week in places like Chinle and Fort Defiance, both in Arizona.

"We are moving the Nation forward," said Ben Shelly, Navajo Nation president, who spoke at the opening in Chinle on Tuesday.

Casciato said Shelly is scheduled to be one of the speakers during the grand opening.

"We're really proud to be a majority Navajo-owned company and to help Navajo people improve their lives," he said.

Erny Zah is The Daily Times business editor. He can be reached at 505-564-4638.and ezah@daily-times.com. Follow him @ernyzah on Twitter.