Sprint, WorldCom Work on Wireless

SAN MATEO (07/10/2000) - Sprint Corp. and WorldCom Inc. officials on Monday unveiled plans to work side-by-side, albeit separately, on plans to outfit the nation with fixed wireless technology - a broadband alternative to DSL and cable.

"Without the merger, we will be working in committees to figure all of this out, instead of in a boardroom," said Jim Hannan, vice president of networking technology at Kansas City, Mo.-based Sprint's Broadband Wireless Group.

In evidence that there remains goodwill despite merger problems, the two companies -- along with a third fixed-wireless heavyweight player, Plano, Texas-based Nucentrix-- announced that the three have come up with a way to work together to build fixed wireless networks in adjacent and overlapping jurisdictions and wireless frequencies.

Dubbed the "Breckenridge Agreement" for the city in Colorado where it was started, the new agreement is designed to appease officials at the U.S. Federal Communications Commission closely watching the fixed wireless buildout, Hannan said.

The agreement establishes some rules of the road the three will use to build an infrastructure for MMDS (Multichannel Multipoint Distribution Service) broadband technology.

Just weeks ago, Sprint and Clinton, Miss.-based WorldCom saw in MMDS a future for the combined company.

After scooping up a handful of fixed wireless companies, both telecommunications giants were poised to begin down a common MMDS path.

MMDS uses radio frequencies to shoot high-bandwidth data, Internet access, and audio and video signals to homes and businesses around the country.

MMDS originated as a wireless cable television frequency. But the spectrum languished until the FCC blessed the entry of digital MMDS in the spectrum, located at the 2.1 and 2.5-2.7GHz frequency.

With the Breckenridge agreement, the companies claim they have worked through spectrum-management issues that will lead to hastening the licensing process.

Potential conflict between the three companies is inherent because MMDS technology is configured to cover a 35-mile radius but radio frequency signals propagate farther and interferences can occur.

Breckenridge is a series of technical agreements that both increase the acceptable interference levels and assigns frequencies operators will use to send signals upstream and downstream based on traffic and availability in each market.

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