WorldCom Inc. will forge ahead with plans
to offer two-way, fixed wireless service across the United States,
a move that is likely to force competition with Sprint Corp. and
Fixed wireless services, or multichannel, multipoint
distribution service, send everything from cellular phone calls to
video feeds and data without having to use fiber-optic lines or
The Clinton-based company applied for 60 permits with the
Federal Communications Commission Monday and said it will apply for
more through the rest of the year.
Joe Lazslo, a senior analyst in broadband and wireless at
Jupiter Communications, said other telecoms will likely seek some
of the same licenses.
"The other big, obvious mover in the MMDS space is probably
Sprint,'' Lazslo said. "When it looked like the two companies were
getting together it seemed like they would have a lock on a
wireless presence in most of the major markets in the United
WorldCom's proposed $129 billion merger with Sprint was called
off in July amid regulatory scrutiny.
Another competitor could be long-distance giant AT&T; in markets
where it doesn't own a cable system.
The spectrum being made available was primarily used by wireless
cable broadcasters in the mid-1990s, said Scott Cleland, CEO of the
Precursor Group in Washington.
"That business model did not work,'' Cleland said. "The
question is can it work for high-speed access? Will people pay as
much for high-speed access as they would for a competitive video
WorldCom has been testing MMDS in five different markets since
last year. The new applications will cover cities from California
to Rhode Island to Florida.
John Stupka, president of WorldCom's Wireless Solutions, said
the company will launch the service in Memphis, Tenn., and then
follow throughout the nation through the first quarter of 2001,
eventually seeking to reach 160 different markets.
The FCC has the authority to deny the licenses, but Lazslo said
that's unlikely to happen, unless another firm argues it should be
granted the license for a particular area.
Lazslo said WorldCom will focus its fixed-wireless efforts on
business customers, instead of consumers because of its relative
high cost compared to cable modems and DSL services.
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