Fixed wireless goes after DSL

By Jennifer Jones, InfoWorld |  Networking

In fact, WorldCom has used the time since its collapsed merger with Sprint to re-examine its approach to fixed wireless. The company is now first extending fixed wireless options to its business customers.

"We went through quite a long planning process in the summer of 2000," McKelvey says. "We are now targeting small-to medium-sized businesses first rather than consumers."

Meanwhile, Kansas City, Mo.-based Sprint is also revving up its fixed wireless plans -- but company executives deny any lull in their roll out of the technology.

"It sure hasn't felt like that around here. As an outsider, it may appear as a lull, but we bought the spectrum and then took several months to roll out the service. In fact, we are the lone player that has committed this much time, dollars, resources, and branding efforts" on fixed wireless, claims Evan Conway, vice president of marketing for Broadband Services at Sprint.

Big-time players

Sprint claims to now have licenses in the MMDS spectrum that cover approximately 30 percent of the country. "We are wildly excited about taking major market share in many cities, since we consider fixed wireless the third leg in a stool," the other two legs in the broadband stool being DSL and cable, Conway says.

It was roughly this time last year when Sprint declared that it had completed a series of company acquisitions that would give it a substantial MMDS footprint. WorldCom had also rolled up a substantial amount of spectrum, and the two began building companion plans to go after broadband business once the merger cleared.

Even now the two carriers don't consider each other fixed wireless competitors, because they are providing service in different markets. And both are hustling to make fixed wireless come across as a viable alternative.

"In many ways, each of our companies would do well if the other is successful. And we're both working to drive down [equipment] costs," Conway says.

Both WorldCom and Sprint have also had to lean on the Federal Communications Commission to prove that their MMDS efforts are alive. The FCC was rumored last fall to be eyeing the MMDS spectrum -- in the 2.1GHz, 2.5GHz, and 2.7GHz ranges -- as an option for needed spectrum for entirely separate 3G (third generation) wireless efforts.

That threat has since passed, for the most part, says Strategis Group's Hamilton. "I don't think MMDS spectrum will be used for 3G," he declares. "WorldCom and Sprint are not going to have their spectrum taken away, especially if they are showing a high degree of activity."

In fact, MMDS activity now stretches well beyond the two carriers. Vendors such as fixed wireless broadband system maker Hybrid Networks, which makes the platforms for Sprint and WorldCom, and others now dot the landscape.

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