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AT&T to begin pre-WiMax trial

Ma Bell says it will start testing the use of WiMax-based technology to deliver business services.

AT&T will begin testing its wireless broadband service to two corporate customers, calling it a precursor to its eventual offering of the WiMax technology, the company said on Sunday.

WiMax is a technology standard that uses radio frequencies to blanket large areas with high-speed Internet access. Proponents claim the technology can reach a radius of up to two miles from the radio tower that transmits the signal.

Dozens of companies, including AT&T, Intel, Sprint and Fujitsu Microelectronics, have high hopes for WiMax, though services are not expected to launch until 2006. As it stands, the standards body giving WiMax certification to equipment makers will not begin testing until this summer.

Many companies are beginning to test WiMax, the 802.16-2004 wireless standard. Eventually, these efforts could receive certification as official WiMax rollouts. AT&T will begin its tests in Middletown, N.J., where the telecom giant will deliver corporate networking services to two undisclosed companies.

By the second half of this year, AT&T is expected to add voice calling over Internet protocol, or VoIP, to its corporate trials as well. The company will expand its tests later this year to two other cities, but it declined to say which ones. AT&T would not disclose pricing for its service, and declined to say which equipment makers it has chosen.

The company said it will initially deliver corporate services such as frame relay and information systems management to its trial companies.

"We've been very happy with the results, so we started approaching our major customers and they are very enthusiastic about participating in the trials," said Behzad Nadji, vice president of AT&T Labs Research.

Nadji declined to say which customers AT&T has approached.