Wireless Internet Coming to Duval; Clearwire Will Use Towers Similar to Cellular Phones for Bundled Internet, Telephone Service

By Gibbons, Timothy J. | The Florida Times Union, June 3, 2004 | Go to article overview

Wireless Internet Coming to Duval; Clearwire Will Use Towers Similar to Cellular Phones for Bundled Internet, Telephone Service


Gibbons, Timothy J., The Florida Times Union


Byline: TIMOTHY J. GIBBONS, The Times-Union

********************CLARIFICATION June 4, 2004

Dallas-based Clearwire has been providing wireless broadband Internet service in Jacksonville since early 2003. A Kirkland, Wash.-based company has purchased Clearwire and is marketing a new service under the same name. A headline on Page A1 yesterday may have implied that the service didn't previously exist.

***************

WASHINGTON -- Communications industry pioneer Craig McCaw will launch a wireless broadband service in Jacksonville over the next few months, using the First Coast as the starting point for a national network.

McCaw's company, Clearwire, will offer a bundled service of Internet access and telephone service designed to compete with high-speed Internet service providers like Comcast's cable modem and BellSouth's direct subscriber line offerings as well as voice-over Internet providers, such as Vonage.

The technology works much like cellular phones. Clearwire will stream an Internet signal from a tower, allowing users to access the network through a book-sized modem-like device connected to a computer. Each tower will have a range of 3 to 7 miles, depending on the terrain. The cost will be competitive with cable broadband service, the company said.

The company is touting the ease of use of the technology: The receiver simply gets plugged into the computer and doesn't need a technician or even a CD-ROM to start working. That also saves the company money, eliminating the need for installers.

"We have to be easier and more human than the cable companies, the phone company," Clark Peterson, president of major markets for Clearwire, said in an interview at the Wireless Communication Association International's convention, where the company announced the roll-out.

The new service should spur growth in the broadband Internet market, industry watchers said, with McCaw's investment making the technology more high-profile.

"It's huge," said Steve Stroh, editor of Focus on Broadband Wireless Internet Access, an industry publication that has closely followed McCaw's acquisitions. "McCaw's entrance into the market is going to put broadband wireless on the map for people who thought it was just a niche."

Clearwire's service should be available to local consumers in the next few months, the company president said, first being made available in the downtown area and east of the St. Johns River. The company has hopes of providing Internet access to visitors to Jacksonville during the Super Bowl.

Nationally, the service also will be targeted at rural areas where traditional forms of broadband are prohibitively expensive for companies to provide.

Jacksonville was selected as Clearwire's entry market for a rollout that should eventually extend throughout the state.

"It has a great population size and a very welcoming business environment," Peterson said, explaining why Jacksonville will be among the first cities to be offered the service. …

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