Sprint Broadband Speeds Ahead in Ariz.

Unfazed by the seeming demise of its proposed merger with MCI World-Com Inc., Sprint Corp. moved forward with its aggressive broadband-wireless Internet-service rollout, entering the Tucson, Ariz., market last week with its multichannel-multipoint-distribution-service offering.

"We're going full-steam ahead," said Robert Hoskins, director of corporate communications for Sprint Broadband Wireless Group.

The Tucson launch follows a Phoenix wireless Internet launch this spring.

According to Hoskins, Sprint has doubled its Phoenix subscriber base since May 8, when the company relaunched the service it acquired in the purchase of the former People's Choice TV Corp. network and its 2,000 data subscribers.

Next in Sprint's sights are markets in the San Francisco and San Jose, Calif.; Colorado Springs, Colo.; and Houston areas.

In a flurry of activity last year, Sprint purchased MMDS licenses in 90 U.S. markets, comprising 30 million households and 4 million businesses.

The wireless Internet service, dubbed "Sprint Broadband Direct," features "EarthLink Sprint Internet" service and is available to more than 85 percent of homes and businesses in greater Tucson, according to Sprint.

The cost is $39.95 per month for residential service and $89.95 for businesses, and Sprint provides downstream burst rates of up to 5 megabits per second, with 1-mbps rates most common. Upstream rates are up to 256 kilobits per second.

There is a one-time equipment charge based on the length of the customer agreement. A one-year agreement will include a $199 equipment charge, while a two-year agreement cuts the charge to $99.

"Judging from the overwhelming response we received in Phoenix, it is clear that there is a huge pent-up demand from consumers for broadband access to the Internet, which is not getting satisfied by cable-modem or [digital-subscriber-line] providers," Sprint Broadband Wireless Group president Tim Sutton said.

Sprint's line-of-sight, fixed-wireless technology uses a stationary, 13.5-inch-by-13.5-inch, diamond-shaped digital transceiver at the home or business, which is pointed toward a radio-transmission tower that can send data up to 35 miles away.

Separately, Hybrid Networks Inc. announced that its fixed-wireless modem and router products successfully passed initial "system-acceptance" tests in Phoenix, and it received orders from Sprint for equipment totaling $7.5 million since May 1.

At that time, Sprint finalized an agreement to purchase a minimum of $10 million worth of Hybrid products and services.

Though it wasn't clear if Sprint was using Hybrid gear for the Tucson service, Hybrid CEO Michael D. Greenbaum said, "Our success in Phoenix sets the stage for Sprint's continued deployment of our fixed-wireless systems."