RealTime IT News

Sprint Wireless Leaps Past Last-Mile Broadband Limits

Sprint Corp. Monday launched its high-speed Internet service in Phoenix, Ariz. designed to deliver broadband access to users over a fixed wireless technology.

Utilizing a multi-channel Multi-Point Distribution System, commonly known as MMDS, Sprint (FON) claims it will effectively offer broadband services to 85 percent of homes and small businesses in Phoenix.

By taking to the airwaves, Sprint overcomes last mile delivery limitations inherent to digital subscriber line distance restrictions and coax-bound high-speed cable services. Because Sprint's fixed wireless systems operate over available radio spectrum, it is positioned to take on wired broadband services nationwide.

Tim Sutton, Sprint Broadband Wireless Group president, said Sprint shatters broadband service carriers stranglehold on the high-speed Internet access market segment.

"The local regional Bell operating companies have had a 20-year monopoly on the copper wire running to homes and businesses. AT&T and Time Warner (TWX)-< a href="http://www.aol.com/">AOL (AOL) are building monopolies on cable routes. Only the wireless alternative will open competition, spark new services and break the duopoly's hold on local customers," Sutton said.

Sutton believes Sprint has a great opportunity to create a leadership position in the Internet broadband race.

"With fixed wireless, we're perfectly positioned to deliver broadband to the masses and help close the digital divide between the broadband haves and have nots," Sutton said. "Sprint maybe able to reach customers in our markets quicker than the competition and reach more of them in a more cost-efficient manner."

MMDS is not a new technology, but its utilization toward developing high-speed Internet services is relatively young. It has been used to transmit analog television signals for more than 30 years, but now MMDS has been digitized and adapted to transmit data and Internet traffic.

Sprint currently maintains radio spectrum licenses in 90 markets, which allows it to pass near to 30 million U.S. homes and 4 million businesses.

Sprint's high-speed access programs, dubbed Sprint Broadband Direct, operates at speeds comparable to DSL and cable modem services. Like conventional broadband services the Internet connection is always on, so users don't have to dial into a modem bank. The technology is not constrained by shared telephone lines to a home or coax cables.

Instead of phone lines or cable, Sprint transmits the broadband signals to users over a small digital transceiver mounted to the roof or side of the house. The device is bout 13.5 inches by 13.5 inches by 2 inches deep, about half the size of a satellite dish.

Installation takes several hours and the basic $40 monthly home access charge includes standard services, like six e-mail addresses, personal Web page hosting for each e-mail address, and customer service through a strategic partnership between EarthLink, Inc. (ELNK) and Sprint.

Sprint provides fixed wireless access to small businesses for $90 a month, which includes setups for five workstations as well as full service ISP amenities. Additional workstations can be connected for $5 a month.

Installation fees have been initially waived during the program launch. Equipment costs vary with the term of service, ranging from $299 for the month-by-month home access or business programs, to $99 when subscribers elect to sign-up for a 2-year se