December 20, 2000, 3:51 PM — UUNET customers could soon reap the benefits of new high-speed Internet access services as a result of parent company MCI WorldCom's substantial acquisitions of wireless technology.
MCI WorldCom has spent over $2 billion on wireless properties over the past six months, not to mention its pending $115 billion Sprint acquisition that includes the Sprint PCS wireless network. And while MCI WorldCom's deals will have an impact on the overall company, UUNET customers will be first on the list to get new wireless data services.
"We want to find a unique platform for delivering broadband services to small and medium businesses and consumers in metropolitan areas," says John Sidgmore, chairman at UUNET and vice chairman at MCI WorldCom. Sidgmore says wireless Internet access will be the first wireless service that the company rolls out, but he would not commit to a time frame.
One of the acquisitions MCI WorldCom hopes will help UUNET offer wireless data services is SkyTel Com-munications. Last month MCI WorldCom closed a stock- swap deal valued at $1.8 billion to buy pager company SkyTel. MCI WorldCom will be deploying additional technology on SkyTel's network, but Sidgmore would not comment further on what that technology would be or when additional services would be available.
Earlier in the year MCI WorldCom also acquired CAI Wireless, a Multipoint Multichannel Distribution Service (MMDS) fixed wireless service provider for more than $350 million. "MMDS will be an alternative to DSL," Sidgmore says.
MMDS operates in the 2.5- to 2.7-GHz range. MMDS licenses were distributed by the Federal Communications Commission some 15 years ago with the idea that they would be used to offer asymmetric wireless cable television services. But that plan never came to fruition and the FCC set new rules earlier this year that allow two-way traffic over the MMDS spectrum.
"MMDS will let us deliver about 1.5M bit/sec worth of access at a very competitive rate that's comparable to cable modems," he says. By the end of next year MCI WorldCom will operate a nationwide fixed wireless network. The first offering will be a wireless Internet access service, but the network will eventually support voice and data services, Sidgmore says.
In order to create a national MMDS reach, MCI WorldCom is also banking on Sprint's MMDS purchases. MCI WorldCom's acquisition of Sprint is still pending domestic and regulatory approval.
MCI WorldCom is also investing $300 million in Metricom, the wireless Internet access service provider. The investment will go toward building and rolling out Metricom's nationwide Ricochet wireless Internet access service.
MCI WorldCom will also distribute and co-brand the Ricochet service in a separate nonexclusive deal valued at $350 million. Business users can most likely expect a UUNET-branded Ricochet wireless Internet access service.