November 19, 2002 12:35 PM PST

Wireless Web EV-DOes it

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Wireless networks shift into high gear

October 29, 2002
A Sprint PCS affiliate has become the third company to begin testing wireless broadband services based on a speedy standard that some see as a bridge for the digital divide.

Conshohocken, Pa.-based wireless carrier Ubiquitel, an exclusive Sprint PCS reseller, said Tuesday that it had started a trial based on the EV-DO standard, which bears the unwieldy official name of CDMA20001x EV-DO.

The trial, using Lucent Technologies cellular network equipment and Sierra Wireless PC modem cards, began Tuesday among businesses and some government agencies in Boise, Idaho, according to a Ubiquitel representative. Ubiquitel serves 11 million people located in portions of California, Idaho, Indiana, Kentucky, Montana, Nevada, Utah, Washington and Wyoming.

The company is the third U.S. carrier to begin exploring the use of EV-DO, which creates a wireless Web network with download speeds of 384kbps to 2.4mbps, rivaling the speed of digital subscriber lines and cable modems. In contrast, the fastest wireless networks currently available offer speeds of up to 144kbps--although average user speeds may vary.

These EV-DO networks are sprouting up mainly in rural areas of the United States and are seen by some as a way to span the ongoing digital divide that's left certain areas of the country starving for Web access.

About 13 percent of the nation's homes have broadband service, a number that's grown dramatically over the past 18 months, according to a recent study by Strategy Analytics. Rural areas have typically been underserved, however, as their small customer bases rarely justify, on a financial level, the cost of extending expensive DSL or cable networks to accommodate them.

The same EV-DO standard and gear is also being used in a commercial network launched in April by Monet Mobile Networks, a carrier that, like Ubiquitel, serves mainly sparsely populated areas that traditional broadband providers have overlooked.

Sprint PCS rival Verizon Wireless is also testing networks based on the standard, but it's bucking the rural trend. Verizon is using EV-DO and the same equipment in trial runs in Washington, D.C., and San Diego. The trials are supposed to last a year, at which time Verizon will make a decision about commercial release, a company representative said.


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