Fixed wireless goes after DSL

By Jennifer Jones, InfoWorld |  Networking

WorldCom's Broadband Solutions division COO Kerry McKelvey agrees that line of sight is just one in a long laundry list of advances that will ultimately spur fixed wireless. "We still need some of the line-of-sight technology we have been looking for, then we need [customer premise equipment] costs to come down," he says.

In the enterprise, the rise of fixed wireless options could be crucial. Many sizable corporations now laugh off the notion of leaning on broadband alternatives such as DSL or cable for any significant networking needs. "Small mom-and-pop shops use DSL or cable just because it is really, really cheap. But a company of any significant size is going to need its service to be reliable," says John Threadgill, CIO of Morgan Keegan Regional Investment Brokerage Firm.

Based in Memphis, Tenn., where WorldCom is rolling out its commercial-grade fixed wireless service, Morgan Keegan is betting that broadband wireless will offer price breaks tied to networking speeds and the reliability most enterprises are looking for.

An issue of reliability

However, Morgan Keegan, which is 900 employees strong at its headquarters, is worried about more than just the price tags attached to networking options. To put fixed wireless access alongside its wireline connectivity in the main office, it needed a high degree of comfort in the technology for the company, Threadgill says.

"We tried DSL and those kinds of newer technologies, and they were just not as stable as I need them to be," Threadgill explains. "Fixed wireless also takes away a lot of problems you have in the wired world, where it can take six weeks to put in a frame-relay circuit."

WorldCom claims the technology is as much as to 30 times faster than dial-up modems with speeds from 384Kbps to 1Mbps for download and 384Kbps to 512Kbps for upload. The Clinton, Miss.-based carrier is also vowing to have fixed wireless service installed within five days of getting approval to situate the appropriate equipment.

The carrier is also quick to raise the specter of DSL's notoriously slow installation service -- which drags ISPs, regional phone companies, and others into the process. WorldCom claims fixed wireless service is often available in less than a week.

"DSL has provided a lot of learning for all of us," WorldCom's McKelvey says.

Nevertheless, WorldCom is interested in putting a full plate of broadband options, including DSL, before the enterprise customers it courts.

"Our original plan was to go out with a strong fixed wireless offer," McKelvey continues. "Then we decided the best thing to do is not to sell a specific technology but to sell to business customers high-speed Internet access regardless of the technology," he says.

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