MCI WorldCom Sets Wireless Internet Access Service

LAS VEGAS (05/11/2000) - MCI WorldCom Inc. and UUNET Technologies Inc. are getting ready to launch two new wireless services that will let business users access the Internet at up to 128K bit/sec.

The new services - WorldCom Mobile Wireless Internet Service and UUmobile 128 - were introduced this week at NetWorld+Interop 2000. The services will let business users connect to the Internet using their laptops and external modems from their office, car, airport or hotel. Most other mobile wireless Internet access services only let users access the 'Net with a handset and typically max out at 19.2K bit/sec.

Customers who subscribe to either service initially will be able to access the Internet at 64K bit/ sec upstream and 128K bit/sec downstream from 12 cities.

The mobile wireless network is being deployed by Metricom Inc., a wireless network provider, which WorldCom struck a deal with nearly one year ago.

WorldCom made a $300 million investment in Metricom to fund the company's Ricochet II network and service. The two companies also struck a separate arrangement by which WorldCom promised to bring Metricom at least $350 million in revenue in five years through new wholesale deals.

Metricom is deploying radio transceivers on top of light poles in cities around the country. These "wired access points" collect and convert wireless packets for transmission over, in this case, UUNET's Internet backbone. The wireless traffic travels over the 902-MHz or 923-MHz bands to a network interface facility where the traffic is handed off to UUNET's terrestrial network.

WorldCom is the only service provider reselling Metricom Ricochet II service, which is the basis for the WorldCom Mobile Wireless Internet Service and UUmobile 128 offerings. While this gives WorldCom a leg up on the competition, it is only a matter of time before other service providers sign on to resell the service.

Indeed, Sprint PCS recently announced that it is looking at upgrading its wireless network to support 144K bit/sec in late 2001, says Alan Mosher, senior analyst at Probe Research, a Cedar Knolls, New Jersey, consultancy. WorldCom and UUNET's mobile wireless Internet access services will be the only high-speed choices for business users that travel a lot and want to stay connected, he says.

The WorldCom Mobile Wireless Internet Service and UUmobile 128 services will not be available until sometime in the fourth quarter. Initially only external modems will be available. PC Card and network interface card modems, which will cost at least $200, are expected to be available in the next three to six months to support the wireless services.

Pricing has not been set, but Montfort says the services will be competitive with individual digital subscriber line (DSL) offerings. Single-user DSL services range from about $40 to $70 per month.

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