Sprint begins national broadband wireless rollout

Sprint begins national broadband wireless rollout

By William Jackson

GCN Staff

Sprint Corp. is starting a nationwide rollout of broadband wireless service with up to 10-Mbps downstream speeds in up to 90 markets across the United States.

Sprint's Broadband Wireless Group accumulated the capacity by acquiring six companies with Federal Communications Commission licenses for the radio-data frequencies it will use. The company plans to build out the licenses in 20 markets this year.

Wireless data is key for the Integrated On-Demand Network, Sprint's grand plan to move all types of traffic'voice, video and data'onto its Synchronous Optical Network.

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So far, ION's rollout has been limited by Sprint's inability to take high-speed access into premises not on a broadband metropolitan area network. Digital subscriber lines, which provide fast service over existing phone lines usually owned by regional Bell operating companies, will serve as ION's primary vehicle.

'The RBOCs are making it as difficult as possible to roll out DSL,' said Robert Hoskins, public relations director for Sprint BWG.

Broadband wireless is Sprint's attempt to break what it calls 'the RBOC stranglehold on the local loop.'

For the time being, the service provides only wireless downloads. Users still need wired service upstream. Sprint expects to have a two-way wireless modem ready soon, possibly as a 'blade' in the integrated services hub required on customer premises for ION service.

The broadband wireless service will use Multichannel Multipoint Distribution Service frequencies at 2.1 GHz and at 2.5 to 2.7 GHz. That spectrum, formerly divided into 33 analog video channels, has been subdivided into 99 digital streams, each capable of delivering 10 Mbps of data over a 35-mile line-of-sight radius from the transmitter.

Sectioning the signal multiplies the bandwidth, because the same frequency travels in multiple beams in different directions. A 30-degree beam, for example, would use the same frequency six times. Adding transmitters to create additional cells also increases capacity.

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A 10-inch antenna at the user premises picks up the signal. A modem connects to the antenna by coaxial cable, and to a computer or LAN hub by an Ethernet connection. The modem supports up to 55 IP addresses, and it processes packets only to those addresses.

The transmitter has a 2.5-Gbps fiber connection to a point of presence on Sprint's first-tier backbone. Upstream connections from users can range from a dial-up modem to a T1 link.

The service is available in Phoenix, Denver, Detroit, the San Francisco Bay area and San Jose, Calif. The company expects to roll it out in 10 to 20 more markets by year's end.

Target markets for broadband wireless service are residences and home and midsize businesses. Residential service supports downloads faster than 1.5-Mbps T1 speed; business service supplies 10-Mbps downloads and dedicated T1 upstream links.

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