Wireless options grow for fast access

High-speed Net access is rolling out across America, and it's not just for two-way cable hookups, xDSL, or ISDN.

Jeff Pelline Staff Writer, CNET News.com
Jeff Pelline is editor of CNET News.com. Jeff promises to buy a Toyota Prius once hybrid cars are allowed in the carpool lane with solo drivers.
Jeff Pelline
2 min read
High-speed Net access is rolling out across America, and it's not just for two-way cable hookups, xDSL, or ISDN.

To prove it, Hybrid Networks said today it would sell at least 6,000 wireless modems to Warp Drive Networks to launch high-speed wireless Net access in Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, and Portland, Oregon, by year's end. The connections will allow speeds ranging from 256 kbps to 10 mbps, bridging the gap between ISDN and costlier T1 lines.

"The market for high-speed Internet access is heating up now, and a wireless solution will be a very compelling option," said Bruce Lichorowic, vice president of sales for Warp Drive. "We're targeting business and users who are looking for alternatives to slower access methods."

The wireless deal is the largest to date for Hybrid Networks, which has an estimated 80 percent of the wireless modem market, according to John Connelly, vice president of marketing. The company--founded in 1990 and run by a former top AT&T executive, Carl Ledbetter--specializes in both wireless and wired modems.

Hybrid also will soon announce a major deal with Jones Intercable for cable modems, clearing the way for Jones to expand into the high-speed Net access market. The modems will be used for high-speed Net access in northern Virginia, sources said.

Last year, the industry shipped an estimated 60,000 cable modems, almost all of them for two-way connections. But the mix is changing rapidly, analysts said. The reasons: Cable operators want to lower installation costs, and companies such as Warp Drive are jumping into the market with wireless options.

This year, the industry expects to ship 240,000 modems, but one-third of them will either be one-way or wireless modems, according to Connelly.

In March, @Home said it would team up with Comcast to deploy high-speed Net access over phone lines. "Telco-return" networks send downstream data over high-speed cable lines while upstream data travels over phone lines. That way, customers still can get data and graphics at higher speeds, preserving most of the benefits of the service.

In another example, ISP CAIS Internet is rolling out a Net technology that uses existing copper phone lines to deliver speeds of 1.54 mbps and up to 10 mbps. Dubbed OverVoice, it is geared toward apartment complexes. The product uses a dedicated line between an apartment building and the ISP. The line is connected to an Ethernet hub, which connects to each apartment.