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Verizon to offer wireless broadband

The nation's No. 1 cell phone provider will begin challenging high-speed Web providers this week with its own wireless broadband service.

The nation's No. 1 cell phone carrier, Verizon Wireless, will launch a wireless broadband service this week.

Its $80-a-month BroadbandAccess service, which begins Wednesday, is meant to compete mainly with other cell phone providers that have built their own wireless data networks.

The service promises the average user download speeds of 300 kilobits per second to 500 kilobits per second, a Verizon Wireless spokeswoman said. She said that makes BroadbandAccess twice as .

"We're really responding to requests from existing customers that want to mirror more realistically the speeds they are getting on their desktop" computers, Verizon Wireless spokeswoman Andrea Linskey said.

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Sources said Verizon also expects to lure some people completely away from digital subscriber line (DSL) or cable Internet providers. These services, while much faster than the new Verizon service, tie users to a broadband-enabled home or office or within the 300-foot reach of a broadband dispensing .

BroadbandAccess will be available first on the East Coast, within an area bordered by Washington, D.C.; Reston and Alexandria, Va.; and Rockville, Md. It will also be available in a Southern California region that includes San Diego, Oceanside, Escondido, Poway and El Cajon.

BroadbandAccess is likely to attract those who now use slower services from the likes of AT&T Wireless, Sprint PCS and the nation's other major cell phone carriers, analysts believe. But Verizon may have trouble attracting traditional cable and DSL customers, at least for now. These customers are used to speeds of about two megabits per second, which Verizon's network will achieve only in "bursts," the spokeswoman said. Also, cable and DSL costs as little as $30 a month.

Cell phone service providers have spent billions of dollars building high-speed wireless networks so that they can sell new services like high-speed Web access, network gaming or wireless access to office e-mails. The carriers are trying to find new sources of revenue because of a competition-driven plunge in the price of their main product: phone calls.