U S West Looks to Broadband Wireless

Author:
Updated:
Original:

U S West and start-up competitive local-exchange carrier
Fuzion Wireless Communications Inc. have opened still another path into wireless-broadband
communications by exploiting new technology that operates over the unlicensed frequency
band at 5.8 gigahertz.

Both companies are deploying a system supplied by
Phoenix-based Adaptive Broadband Corp. with very different agendas in mind. U S West is
looking at the technology as a possible market-coverage backup to its
digital-subscriber-line service, while Fuzion has already launched an all-wireless
business service in southern Florida, which it intends to extend across the country and
into other countries, as well.

Publicly, U S West would only acknowledge that it is
looking at the AB technology "to better understand the characteristics of
broadband-wireless technologies" and "to help us understand the value customers
may place on high-speed wireless data."

But sources said the carrier -- with a trial slated to get
under way soon in the Denver area -- has high hopes for this wireless system on the basis
of its previous experiences with various wireless options.

"We need a way to reach all of the people we can't
reach with DSL, and this may be the way to go," said a U S West official, speaking on
background.

The AB system U S West is deploying operates over a
200-megahertz segment of what is known as "U-NII" (Unlicensed National
Information Infrastructure) spectrum at the 5.8-GHz tier to deliver multiple data channels
at 25 megabits per second each on a shared-use basis.

The system also operates at the
multichannel-multipoint-distribution-service frequency and other broadband tiers, AB vice
president of customer marketing Jeff Kolluch said.

U S West experimented with a wireless-data system developed
by Qualcomm Inc. earlier this year, using two of its cellular-system sites in Minneapolis
to deliver fixed Internet access at about 1.5 mbps over an unused segment of its
personal-communications-services spectrum.

"You can take our plans for the Denver trial with
Adaptive as a sign that the Qualcomm solution didn't pan out," the U S West source
said.

The move to the U-NII tier represents an opportunity to
offer a more flexible, higher-speed service over wireless than the carrier could offer in
a limited portion of PCS spectrum, the source said.

And because the spectrum is unlicensed, it's available
immediately at no cost to whomever makes use of it first in any given service area.
"We've already had experience working with unlicensed spectrum, so we are comfortable
with this option," the official noted.

Fuzion -- a venture-capital-backed company begun by a team
that includes experts who helped to spearhead Siemens AG's fixed-wireless
broadband-product initiative -- plans to build a nationwide business on the U-NII spectrum
by quickly putting the application to use in targeted markets ahead of potential
competitors.

"We're a CLEC offering all types of broadband-wireless
data, including Internet access and private Intranets," Fuzion vice president of
marketing and business development John Wind said. "We're in the process of
partnering with ASPs [applications-service providers] so that by January, we'll have
providers offering specialized applications such as e-commerce and VPNs [virtual private
networks]."

Fuzion is building an asynchronous-transfer-mode-based
infrastructure using backbone facilities supplied by Qwest Communications International
Inc., with provisions in place for supplying connectivity to local markets around the
country, Wind said. Fuzion is employing DS3-links to tie its wireless hubs into the
backbone, he noted.

The flexibility of the AB system allows Fuzion to offer
guaranteed symmetrical access rates at any speed up to 25 mbps, starting at 500 kilobits
per second in each direction and moving to 1 mbps and beyond in 1-mbps increments, Wind
said.

The technology also allows the company to offer
"burst" services, allowing a customer to get regularly scheduled increases in
bandwidth to accommodate periods of high-volume file transfers, he added.

"Bandwidth on-demand really shines as an advantage we
have over traditional wireline systems," Wind said. "This is something the
market wants."

The AB system employs a "packet-on-demand"
media-access-control mechanism that assigns precisely the bandwidth needed by a particular
end-user only when that user is online, Kolluch said.

"We also use time-division duplexing to maximize
bandwidth efficiency," he added. TDD employs time slots for sending messages in
either direction over a given spectrum segment, thereby eliminating the need for separate
upstream and downstream channels and a guard band in between.

The system is able to assign bandwidth dynamically as
needed and only when a user goes online through the use of dedicated "request"
time slots assigned to each user.

These dedicated request links occupy only a very small
portion of available bandwidth, but they carry enough information to ensure that as soon
as the user goes on, the system will provide the bit rate required for the application,
Kolluch said.

Fuzion's "bread-and-butter" service so far is the
2-mbps connection, which it offers for $1,495 per month, including a voice-over-IP
(Internet protocol) local-loop solution that will be implemented after the first of the
year, Wind said. This is about what it costs users to obtain local-loop and shared T-1
service from BellSouth Corp., where the average access rate works out to be about 384
kbps, Wind noted.

Fuzion has also arranged for satellite capacity to link
networks that it plans to build in parts of Latin America, Africa and Europe back to
Qwest's U.S. backbone. He said preparations for use of wireless spectrum in those regions
are under way, but he declined to discuss details.

Stateside, Fuzion hopes to establish "squatter's
rights" for use of the U-NII spectrum on as broad a basis as possible, Wind said.
"We're the first ones anywhere to deploy this [AB] technology, but a lot of others
are looking at it, including BellSouth," he added.

Related