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For Broadband Competition, Look at Jax

For Broadband Competition, Look At Jax
By Bill Menezes
February 1, 2003
Wireless Week
© 2002, Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All Rights Reserved.
A Florida port city that's more South than South Beach is the site of some new broadband wireless deployments that could become an intriguing test bed for the rest of the industry.

Separate consumer-oriented and business-focused commercial deployments in Jacksonville, Fla., by service providers Clearwire Technologies and Data Wave show that two networks which couldn't be more different are slicing off pieces of the broadband access business that so far is dominated by wireline incumbents.

Clearwire early last month launched its mass market-oriented Internet access service, initially targeting areas of about 1 million Jacksonville POPs it believes are underserved by cable and DSL providers. The company uses 2.5 GHz spectrum in the Instructional Television Fixed Service band that it leases from local license holders and offers service plans with downstream bandwidth up to 768 kilobits per second.

Leo Cyr, Clearwire's president and chief operating officer, described early takeup of the service as good and reiterated the company's plan to launch other markets where it controls 2.5 GHz spectrum once the Jacksonville market confirmed the broad business viability of a broadband wireless access service.

At the same time Data Wave has jumped into the broadband wireless access field with an offering that is aimed at enterprise clients and is based on unlicensed 2.4 GHz spectrum using the 802.11a wireless LAN platform. The company covers a roughly 25-mile radius from downtown Jacksonville and deploys wireless access points only as needed to service specific customers; adjacent access points then serve as a sort of mesh network to expand coverage in a given area as more customers come on board.

Robert Dunlap, Data Wave's president, says 11 commercial customers signed up in the first two weeks following the product's mid-January launch, taking bandwidth packages ranging from 1 megabit per second symmetrical data rates–available for $275 per month–to 5 mbps for $1,000.

Dunlap believes his company's focus on the enterprise and its pricing relative to the T1s available from local telcos–T1 equivalent bandwidth from Data Wave costs $350 per month vs. a telco or CLEC T1 costing in the range of $800 to $1,200–are critical differentiators.

He also draws a line between his Wi-Fi-based network technology and the lower-bandwidth 802.11b networks being thrown up by public "hot spot" operators.

"802.11b is where everybody is. As these companies grow and put in hot spots, they're going to find everybody's going to be tripping on top of them, including the Domino's Pizza next door that might have a leaky microwave."

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