By WALTER S. MOSSBERG
Gradually, over the past couple of years, it has become possible in
many major U.S. cities to get wireless Internet access, at speeds
comparable with those of wired home DSL lines, without having to be
anywhere near a wireless "hot spot" in a cafe or hotel or airport.
These wireless broadband connections, available over a wide swath of
the major metropolitan areas where they are offered, have been sold by
two big cellphone companies, Verizon Wireless and Sprint. Both charge
$60 a month for unlimited use of the services, which Verizon calls
BroadbandAccess and Sprint calls Mobile Broadband. Both companies'
services are based on a technology called EV-DO, which stands for
Evolution-Data Only. [Cyber Surge]
This is a revolutionary development. It means that, with a properly
equipped laptop or smart phone, you can now get enough speed on a
wireless connection to do everything you would do with a fast Internet
connection at your desk -- stream video, download large Web sites,
open large email attachments. And you don't have to shell out $4 for a
Venti latte just to gain access to a Wi-Fi hot spot.
Not only that, but these fast, new networks have, for the first time
in years, given the U.S. the edge over Europe in cellular wireless
data networks. Actual speeds on the EV-DO networks tend to be 600-700
kilobits a second, which is double or triple the actual speeds of the
fastest widely deployed cellphone networks in Europe. Even the lowest
speed the U.S. companies promise, 400 kbps, is faster than the maximum
speed of today's common European systems.
Now, this American trend has taken another step forward. Last month,
Cingular Wireless announced it is leaping into the broadband wireless
arena. It rolled out a service called BroadbandConnect to compete with
Verizon and Sprint.