RealTime IT News

Sprint Wireless Broadband Lights Up Tucson

Following closely on its Phoenix launch of wireless broadband services, Sprint Corp. Thursday extended its wire-free footprint into a second Arizona city.

Tucson becomes the second metropolitan area in the U.S. to test out Sprint's broadband wireless systems. Dubbed Sprint Broadband Direct, the high-speed Internet service is an extension of the telecom giant's two-way fixed wireless broadband technology.

In accordance with deals struck earlier this year, Sprint's wire-free broadband connections feature EarthLink Inc.'s Internet services.

Tim Sutton, Sprint Broadband Wireless Group president, said its earlier Phoenix release unleashed the areas pent-up demand for high-speed Internet services.

"Judging from the overwhelming response we have received in Phoenix, it is clear that there is a huge demand from consumers for broadband access to the Internet, which is not getting satisfied by cable modem or DSL providers" Sutton said.

According to Sutton, broadband envy is one of the symptoms of the so-called "Digital Divide," the gap between high-speed "have's" and "have-not's" in the U.S.

Tucson is the second in a string of numerous cities that Sprint plans to launch in the next eight to 10 weeks. With the launch of wireless broadband services to the city, more than 85 percent of the homes and businesses in the Tucson metropolitan market can subscribe to Sprint Broadband Direct high-speed service for $40 to $90 a month.

"Most customers and small businesses across the U.S. still cannot get broadband service," Sutton said. "The good news for people in Tucson is that since our service doesn't depend on wires, we can provide coverage to almost all homes in the greater Tucson area, and end what we characterize as 'Broadband Envy'."

The Sprint wireless service provides multi-megabit download speeds, which does not require a second phone line to connect a computer modem to the Internet. Since the technology is wireless, customers can get simple installation of the service in a couple of days.

Sprint Broadband provides downstream burst rates of up to 5 megabits per second, but most downloads speeds average in excess of 1 megabits per second.

Unlike mobile wireless, fixed wireless uses a stationary digital transceiver at the home or business receiving the service. The transceiver is pointed toward a radio transmission tower to send and receive a signal. The digital transceiver is a small, diamond-shaped device, which is less than half the size of the common satellite dish.

The radio transmission tower can send and receive high-speed Internet data to customers that are up to 35 miles away, as long as line-of-sight is maintained. Setting up services means there is a one-time equipment charge that varies by the type of service agreement the customer selects.

In addition to equipment required to set up Sprint wireless broadband services, there is a $299 installation charge. However, for a limited time, Sprint is waiving the installation fee for customers in the Tucson metropolitan area.

Sprint is slowly deploying its wireless broadband services in pursuit of what research firm IDC predicts will be a $61.5 million market by 2003 in the U.S.

Iain Gillott, IDC vice president of worldwide consumer and small business telecommunications research, said a slew of wireless carriers introduced wireless data services in 1999, and the onslaught is expected to continue in this year.

"It is easy to envision a time in the next few years when the majority of Internet access could be through wireless and not wired means," Gillott said.