Carriers Forge Wireless Pact

ORLANDO, FLORIDA (07/10/2000) - Three of the largest fixed wireless carriers operating in the microwave frequency band have reached a technical agreement that they said will speed licensing and reduce interference in adjacent markets served by different carriers.

The agreements are expected to end what Jonathan Mapes, chief technology officer of the wireless solutions division at Worldcom Inc., called the "mutual self-destruction policies" of companies interfering with one another in the 2.5- to 2.7-GHz and 2.3-GHz wireless communications service frequency bands (WCS).

Mapes, speaking here at the annual conference of the Wireless Communications Association International, said the technical agreement should allow Multichannel Multipoint Distribution Service ( MMDS) carriers to provide better service within their 35-mile coverage areas with less interference.

MMDS can provide throughput up to 10M bit/sec, but carriers typically concentrate on providing service up to the T-1 (1.54M bit/sec) rate.

Todd Rowley, vice president for spectrum at the broadband wireless group of Sprint Corp., said the technical agreements include a band plan that delineates which of the 38 MMDS and WCS channels will carry downstream (to the customer) and upstream data. Last week, Sprint hyped this agreement as "groundbreaking" in an alert sent out to the press.

Curtis Henderson, vice president and general counsel at Plano, Texas-based Nucentrix Broadband Networks -- the other major carrier that signed the technical agreement -- said this will allow license holders to "maintain the geographic reach of each wireless market -- and as a result reach more customers."

Mapes said the agreement should allow carriers to operate their fixed wireless transmitters in the MMDS bands at full power, allowing the companies to provide service to customers at the outer limits of their coverage areas.

"They're usually the ones who need it most" due to lack of service by carriers who provide service by wire, Mapes said.

Sprint and Worldcom have spent billions of dollars to acquire fixed wireless licenses that blanket much of the U.S. to provide "last mile" connectivity for their networks to businesses and homes. Nucentrix currently holds MMDS licenses in 93 markets in the Midwest and Southwest. Henry Burkhalter, chief operating office of Worldcom Wireless, called the technical agreements a "landmark event" for the industry.

Ray Nettleton, senior vice president and chief technology officer at Formus Communications Inc. in Denver, which currently provides fixed wireless service in Germany, Austria and Poland and has licenses to serve six other European countries, said the U.S. fixed wireless industry -- which operates in a number of bands other than MMDS -- must develop and adhere to a set of standards if it wants to capitalize on economies of scale from manufacturers. That includes security standards, "because business wants to keep its business to itself," Nettleton said, as well as standards that promote "spectral efficiency," a key consideration in Europe where spectrum is scarce.

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