Qwest-backed Wireless Player Wins Building Access

A wireless local loop provider partially owned by broadband carrier Qwest has won an agreement to serve business customers in 254 office buildings around the country.

Advanced Radio Telecom (ART), which bypasses telco local loops to provide wireless broadband Internet access, won the deal on Monday from CarrAmerica Realty Corp.

CarrAmerica owns commercial real estate in Atlanta; Austin, Texas; Chicago; Dallas; Denver; Los Angeles; Miami; Phoenix; Portland, Ore.; Salt Lake City; San Diego; San Francisco; Seattle; and Washington, D.C.

The deal is a major win for ART because gaining building access has been a huge challenge for wireless local loop carriers. Providers generally must find a way to place specialized antennas on individual office buildings within the line of sight of their own switch sites. Often provider systems also require access to riser cables and other in-building facilities.

The issue has become so contentious that two of ART's potential competitors, WinStar and Teligent, have approached the Federal Communications Commission about passing a rule forcing realty companies such as CarrAmerica to provide rooftop access. The trade association for commercial real estate owners has vowed to fight such a move, saying the FCC should stick to regulating carriers instead of property owners.

For their part, ART officials such as CEO Harry Hirsch have carped that WinStar and Teligent are more voice-oriented than data-oriented, and new carriers must give building owners a reason to offer the service to their tenants. ART claims that its collection of 352 licenses for wireless bandwidth at 38 GHz can provide up to a 100M bit/sec direct connection to the Internet. CarrAmerica Chief Operating Officer Phil Hawkins says his company is "committed to providing our tenants with a variety of options to fulfill their data communications needs."

Qwest owns a minority stake in ART. Much of the rest of the company's equity is held by a syndicate of venture capitalists led by Oak Investment Partners. Some ART stock is publicly traded on Nasdaq.

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