Fixed Wireless Carrier to Enhance Telecom Services

BELLEVUE, WASH. (04/27/2000) - One of the country's emerging fixed-wireless local-loop carriers is speeding up changes it plans for the way it reaches users because its key investor is buying a Bell carrier.

Advanced Radio Telecom (ART) is accelerating its plan to exit the business of selling fixed-wireless connections directly to business users. Instead, it will offer its 38-GHz broadband connections to ISPs and other service providers that could turn around and provide them to enterprises.

The reason for the urgency: 19% of ART's stock is held by Qwest Communications Inc., which is in the process of buying US West, a carrier that is currently barred from carrying long-distance traffic. The purchase would technically make ART an affiliate of US West, meaning it would fall under the same long-distance restrictions.

In a document submitted to the Federal Communications Commission, Qwest revealed that ART intends to terminate service to 300 subscribers in the US West region - the part of the country where most of ART's networks are located. The subscribers receive Internet access service over ART's fixed-wireless connections.

Robert McCambridge, chief operating officer of ART, says the company had already been planning to go to a wholesale model in which ISPs, application service providers and others supplemented the fiber and copper loops at their disposal with fixed-wireless links to buildings.

The intent to move to wholesale was part of a June 1999 restructuring in which investors refinanced ART, McCambridge says. The company is building a system of metropolitan-area links based on broadband wireless local-loop connections connecting to Cisco gigabit routers for high-speed Internet access and other services.

As opposed to some other fixed-wireless providers, which provide only ISDN or slightly higher links, ART now will provide DS-3 or OC-3 links to the carriers.

Technically, the carriers could then multiplex down their connections to individual companies in, for example, an office building - to make them all fixed-wireless local-access users to a WAN.

But for ART's existing users, the migration is not likely to work out quite like that. Instead, McCambridge says, they are likely to migrate to digital subscriber line (DSL) providers.

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