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RealTime IT News

Phone Firm Files to Boost Footprint

Over the past eight weeks Sprint Corp. hustled to file a series of applications with the Federal Communications Commission that would expand its two-way fixed wireless broadband services to another 45 U.S. markets.

Sprint tested its multi-channel multi-point distribution service, or MMDS, in two Arizona markets earlier this year. While Tucson reviewed its two-way fixed wireless technology in May, Sprint moved to unleash its wire-free broadband services to Phoenix in June.

The Arizona tests allowed Sprint to work its way through line of sight issues and billing systems for delivering two-way high-speed Internet access in the 2150-2162 and 2500-2690 megahertz spectrum bands.

Some of the applications to expand its wireless footprint were filed with the FCC last week, while other filings were completed in July and August.

In addition to existing service in Tucson and Phoenix, Sprint already holds licenses to fire up two-way fixed wireless broadband service in Detroit, Houston, Colorado Springs, San Jose, and San Francisco.

The filings potentially allow Sprint to expand its broadband wireless footprint to nearly 24.8 million U.S. households.

Tim Sutton, Sprint Broadband Wireless Group president, said it is prepared to move into 45 additional markets and will have enough spectrum to deliver services to 2 million customers.

"With these filings, Sprint becomes 'spectrum-ready' to continue our aggressive roll-out of markets for the balance of this year and in 2001," Sutton said.

The new market applications include Chicago, San Francisco, San Jose, Fresno and Eureka, CA, Milwaukee, Green Bay and Fon du Lac, WI, Lansing, MI, Las Vegas, Salt Lake City, Boise, ID, Cincinnati, Columbus, and Toledo, OH, St. Louis, Indianapolis and Bloomington, IN, Seattle, Nashville, Omaha, NE, and Denver, Colorado Springs, Ft. Collins and Greeley, CO.

In six of the markets for which two-way licenses were filed, Sprint is seeking to build a cellular system that would allow the company to serve more customers than its single "super cell" technology is capable of delivering.

Sutton explained that its super cell system is a technological breakthrough that could expand its two-way fixed wireless broadband services beyond "line of sight" barriers.

"Cellurization will enable us to increase coverage and capacity in our larger markets," Sutton said. "Over time, it will enable us to serve customers that do not even have a line of sight to one of our towers."

Sprint's fixed wireless service uses a small stationary digital transceiver located at the home or business to receive high-speed Internet access from a fixed tower location that serves a wide area.

Sprint two-way fixed wireless users currently experience download speeds of about one million bits per second, with bursts of up to five millions bits of data per second.

It's an alluring offer for $40 a month, compared to standard telephone modem Internet connections that deliver less than 56 kilobits per second for $20 a month.

Sprint does not believe that there will be any problems swapping the spectrum it originally acquired for one-way video transmissions to its two-way broadband Internet service.

Todd Rowley, Sprint BWG vice president of spectrum management said, it was encouraged by the spirit of cooperation demonstrated by fixed wireless operators throughout the industry to expand its MMDS technology.

"The filing process required significant technical coordination between neighboring systems," Rowley said. "Sprint obtained over 1,000 consent letters from other operators. With this level of cooperation, I am convinced that fixed wireless systems will continue to be successfully licensed and developed."

For now, the window of opportunit