In any new endeavor, there is usually a pioneer or two willing to stick their necks out to serve as trailblazers, enduring a few bumps and taking some hits on the chin on behalf of the rest of us. In the case of emerging multichannel multipoint distribution services, Sprint comes to mind.
Sprint Broadband Direct currently offers first-generation services in 13 of the 90 U.S. markets for which it holds spectrum licenses. MMDS refers to fixed broadband wireless services with current speeds up to 2M bit/sec in the licensed 2.5-GHz range. Other big U.S. license-holders are WorldCom, which currently offers MMDS services in four of the 100 U.S. markets for which it holds licenses; and Nucentrix Broadband Networks, which is primarily using its licenses for subscription television services, but has begun deploying some wireless Internet access services in Texas.
Sprint has been leading the last-mile MMDS deployment pack, despite a cutback from its original ambitious intent to deploy services in 45 cities this year. It has been quietly rolling out MMDS in an effort to seed the market with alternatives to DSL, cable modem and other affordable, high-speed access services. These efforts will go a long way in prepping the industry for improvements that need to be made in second-generation equipment, which will enable much broader service coverage, lower customer premises equipment costs and other benefits. Sprint says it plans to deploy services based on second-generation equipment in a couple of markets by year-end.
Sprint has been tight-lipped about its current services -- it only recently began to advertise -- in large part because it recognized that it didnt have the resources to quickly fill customer orders. In my book, managing customer expectations is always a plus. In addition, the company has been willing to eat hefty up-front installation costs with its first-generation technology. The installer who got my office up and running, for example, was on my roof for nearly six hours, and I paid Sprint only $99. Wisely, Sprint views these circumstances as an investment for the future.
Next up: How is MMDS evolving, and are you a candidate?