Verizon Wireless's High-Speed Service Takes On Wi-Fi

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Verizon Wireless said it is expanding its $79.99-per-month service to a total of 14 metropolitan areas and 24 airports. The service, dubbed BroadbandAccess, is aimed primarily at enterprise users, and one analyst said it eventually could provide serious competition for Wi-Fi hotspots and even fixed-line broadband services, such as DSL.

"A lot of markets, like some rural and suburban areas, aren't served by broadband now," said Joe Nordgaard, managing director of wireless consultancy Spectral Advantage. "BroadbandAccess will appeal to them immediately. Over time, it will have an impact on DSL and cable broadband."

Indeed, the firm's chief technology officer, Richard Lynch, said many early users of the service in San Diego were so pleased with the high-speed of the service that they dropped their DSL and cable broadband service. Verizon Wireless, which is owned jointly by Verizon Communications and Vodafone, said the service has Web download speeds of 300 to 500 kbps, with bursts of 1 MB. The expanded service will initially be available to a coverage area with 35 million people; 75 million will be covered by the end of the year.

Verizon Wireless announced that, in addition to the 14 cities to be offered BroadbandAccess, the service will be offered 24 airports.

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The metropolitan areas available for the service Monday include Atlanta, Austin, Baltimore, Kansas City, Los Angeles, Miami/Fort Lauderdale, Milwaukee, New York, Philadelphia, Tampa, and West Palm Beach. Previously, the service rolled out in San Diego, Las Vegas, and Washington D.C., and the firm said coverage in those areas will be expanded.

The airport markets will present a direct challenge to Wi-Fi suppliers already supplying service at those airports. "There are already interference difficulties among Wi-Fi providers at airports," said Nordgaard. "Some airlines are using Wi-Fi for internal management, like ticketing and baggage handling. BroadbandAccess is much more secure, because it's a licensed service and Verizon Wireless is the only one with that service in the airports."

In addition to major airports at the cities listed above, BroadbandAccess will be available at additional airports in Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston, Jacksonville, Newark, New Orleans, Orlando, Philadelphia, Phoenix, and Santa Ana.

The rollout is also a boon to its technology developer, Qualcomm. The EV-DO (Evolution-Data Optimized) service is backward compatible with Qualcomm's earlier versions of CDMA2000 1xEV-DO. Nordgaard noted that in recent tests he made in Las Vegas with the service, he recorded average rates of 400 kbps, and sometimes hit 928.8 kbps. "Verizon historically has been very conservative," he said. "They under-promise and over-deliver. I expect them to reach all their goals."

The Verizon Wireless rollout of the high-speed wireless service is also good news for the two major suppliers of infrastructure for BroadbandAccess--Lucent Technologies and Nortel Networks.

This story courtesy of TechWeb.