SAN MATEO (05/12/2000) - Worldcom Inc. and its UUnet Technologies Inc. subsidiary last week revealed plans to roll out wireless broadband services later this year, promising traveling corporate users access speeds of up to 128Kbps.
Branded two ways -- as UUmobile 128 and WorldCom Mobile Wireless Internet Services -- the effort banks on WorldCom's $300 million investment last year in Metricom Inc.
Metricom is the Los Gatos, California, provider of Ricochet, an always-on, packet-switched network service that blends radio frequency transmission and IP, using radio units mounted on streetlights and utility poles to transmit signals.
"The [new UUnet] service operates using 900MHz radio technology, which allows for spectrum frequencyhopping that adds to the security of packets," said Ralph Montfort, director of access products at UUnet.
With its Ricochet wireless modems, Metricom also aims to provide traveling executives with an alternative to scouring airports and other locations for Internet connections for their laptops.
Because wireless technology right now is still restricted mostly to narrow-band and limited Web applications, WorldCom officials claim that the effort represents one of the industry's only mobile broadband plays.
"The voice carriers are doing a lot of things in this data space, but most of those use circuit-switched signals and are really just adjunct overlays on their voice network," said Michael Barnes, director of product management and development at Skytel Communications Inc., also a WorldCom company.
Skytel will serve as an additional sales channel for the service, which will be sold on a flat-fee pricing scale with no usage charge.
"From a corporate standpoint, as this thing gets rolled out, it gives traveling executives a good way to get into their networks," said Alan Mosher, a senior analyst at Probe Research, based in Cedar Knolls, New Jersey.
"This also really gives Metricom a good, strong sales arm to push services and expand its network beyond the three cities it's now in," Mosher continued.
UUnet and WorldCom will rollout service later this year in 12 markets, including New York, Chicago, Seattle, and San Francisco. By early 2001, the service will expand to 21 major U.S. markets.
UUnet is working to integrate the service with its dial platform, UUdial Corporate, and its UU-secure VPN offering, officials said.
Proving that the service is a safe method to connect roaming workers to corporate networks will be key to the service's success, Mosher said. "If they can convince IT people that this is a secure service, this could be a very positive thing," he said.
UUnet, a WorldCom subsidiary, in Ashburn, Virginia, can be reached at www.uunet.com.