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.
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,”
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
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
y for Sprint to expand its two-way fixed
wireless broadband service is closed. The company expects the next filing
window to open in February or March next year. At that time, Sprint plans
to increase each markets capacity by picking up new cellular applications
and will to file to use additional spectrum.
Industry analysts paint a very rosy picture for the growth of high-speed
wireless Internet access over the next five years. Boston-based research
firm, IGI Consulting,
predicts that MMDS and currently unlicensed frequencies for broadband
wireless revenue will exceed $5.5 billion by 2005.
IGIC research reported that two-way broadband fixed wireless systems would
rake in $246 million this year. That means that MMDS revenues are
forecasted to achieve a total five-year growth rate of more than 2,000 percent.
If Sprint can leap over line of sight issues and successfully deliver
two-way broadband fixed wireless access as planned, the phone firm is
poised pick up a major chunk of the wire-free high-speed market.