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All fixed up: AT&T Wireless rolls out broadband service

The broadband fixed wireless system that AT&T Wireless Services rolled out in four cities last week bears only a vague resemblance to the R&D project that claims its parentage.

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According to AT&T Wireless, the veiled technology experiment - code-named Project Angel - has been overhauled to address the equipment cost issues naysayers claimed would prevent the format from ever being commercially viable. A new development team was brought in more than two years ago to revamp the original model, which was designed purely for voice, said Michael Keith, president and CEO of AT&T's fixed wireless division.

"The new team redesigned the technology from the ground up and got our cost structure down, and new revenue [opportunities] appeared from the data side," Keith said.

AT&T's fixed wireless technology is economically viable for certain connectivity problems in areas where the carrier does not have infrastructure, said Andy Fuertes, senior analyst with Allied Business Intelligence.

"They're talking about 512 kb/s over the network," he said. "I don't know how they're going to do this, but if they can, then yes, this is commercially viable - this is a godsend. It's a cheap way of hitting customers who aren't served by cable and whose lines may not be able to support DSL."

The facelift appears to have worked, at least well enough to warrant commercial rollout of the system.

Last week, AT&T Wireless announced that it was expanding availability of high-speed Internet access and local voice offerings over the system to residential customers in Anchorage, Ala.; San Diego; Houston; and Los Angeles. The company has been offering the Digital Broadband service in the Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas, market for about three months and has more than 2000 customers, said an AT&T Wireless spokesman (Telephony, March 27, page 8).

AT&T's Digital Broadband service allows customers to get four voice lines and 500 kb/s Internet access. The company expects to offer 1 Mb/s access by the end of September.

AT&T Wireless also granted Lucent Technologies' network care unit a two-year, $250 million contract to build and provide site acquisition, program management, installation, engineering, testing, integration and maintenance in all of the service regions.

As the primary data networking supplier for the fixed wireless network, Lucent is expected to provide a solution enabling AT&T Wireless to accept, authenticate, authorize, bill, manage and route customers' data traffic.

AT&T representatives consider the service superior to DSL technology, especially in terms of regional availability. "A DSL line has to be within a certain radius of a central office, whereas we don't have that dependency," Keith said.

AT&T Digital Broadband service will be available to about 15 million homes in 40 additional markets by the end of 2002.

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© 2014 Penton Media Inc.

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