- The nation's largest wireless carrier, Verizon Wireless, a joint venture of Verizon Communications and Vodafone, is testing 144-kbps service and plans to offer it commercially later this year. Verizon executives say they are in no rush to offer 3G services, and for the next three to four years 2G will suffice.
- AT&T Wireless says more than 40 percent of its network will be upgraded to 2G speeds by the end of this year, but does not promise a complete rollout sooner than the end of 2002.
- Sprint PCS plans to deploy 2.5G technology by the end of next year. Sprint already owns enough airwave capacity (known as spectrum) to deploy 3G and will spend only $700 million to $800 million to upgrade its network to do so.
- Cingular Wireless says it won't begin to offer 3G speeds of 800 kbps until 2003. In the meantime, 2.5G speeds of 56 kbps will become available to all its voice customers in California, Nevada, Washington, and the Carolinas this fall.
- Metricom is slowly rolling out its Ricochet 144-kbps wireless data service to major metropolitan areas. But it has pared back rollouts to major cities, such as Boston, because of slow sales.
Weak Wireless Demand
Carriers continue to question what sort of wireless capabilities, besides standard voice calls, Americans will actually pay for. Many, like AT&T Wireless, offer a limited menu of Web services. AT&T Wireless provides text-only information from Yahoo and CNN. But using tooth-extraction-slow speeds to watered-down content delivered to devices that sport displays the size of Post-It Notes isn't catching on.
Of 15 million customers, AT&T Wireless had only 300,000 subscribers for its PocketNet service by last fall. Sprint PCS says 500,000 of its 10 million wireless customers subscribe to its data offerings. Another 500,000 Sprint PCS customers can get access to the wireless Web as part of a service contract, but don't use it regularly. About 750,000 of Verizon Wireless' 27.5 million customers subscribe to data services. Cingular Wireless reports only 500,000 adopters, among more than 20 million subscribers, for its data service.
For now, consumers aren't demanding much more than wireless access to e-mail, says Bryan McCann, Sprint PCS vice president of Wireless Data Services. He says Sprint PCS can handily support e-mail over 2G networks.
So how will they hook us on the new, faster (and probably higher-fee) wireless? Services, says the consensus.