Friday, April 07, 2006

Sprint Nextel prepares to take on DSL providers

CNET reports that Sprint might take on fixed broadband providers with new products that allow users to tap into their mobile broadband connections via the Linksys Wireless-G Router for Mobile Broadband (WRT54G3G-NA), "which allows Sprint mobile broadband customers to plug their broadband card, used to connect their laptops wirelessly, into the PC Card slot on the router. The EV-DO mobile broadband connection is then turned into a shared 802.11g Wi-Fi connection."

According to the article, Sprint and Linksys will initially market "the product to businesses that require network connections in areas where wired broadband access is not readily accessible, such as construction sites, special events, offsite consulting, and at events focused on public safety." However, Sprint believes "the product may appeal to consumers and could be viewed as a harbinger for much larger ambitions, especially as the mobile operator deploys a faster version of its wireless broadband called EV-DO Revision A, which will be available in early 2007."

The article states that "EV-DO Revision A is likely to offer average speeds between 450kbps to 800kbps for downloads and 70kbps to 144kbps for uploads. These speeds are comparable to Verizon's lowest-speed DSL option, which offers 769kbps downloads and 128kbps uploads." Looking further ahead, Sprint plans to offer "4G wireless services sometime in 2009."

Charles Golvin at Forrester Research said, "I think wireless broadband as a replacement to regular broadband will only find a niche appeal. In the long term, I see Sprint partnering with cable operators and others to provide broadband service. I don’t see them going after the market entirely on their own."

One possible problem is pricing while the other issue is speeds and feeds with fixed broadband offering better performance. Julie Ask at JupiterResearch said, "The problem is wired broadband will always be cheaper and faster than wireless."

If speed and performance were taken out of the equation you might be able to make a case for going solo on mobile broadband if pricing dropped a bit. I currently pay $20+ for DSL at home and another $20 for Cingular's all-you-can-eat GPRS data plan. Is there money to made here for the wireless carriers?