Copyright 2005 Denver Publishing Company

Rocky Mountain News (Denver, CO)

June 20, 2005 Monday Final Edition

Qwest plans to use a town near Denver to test an emerging wireless technology designed to give residents high-speed Internet access over longer distances.

The Denver telco is in the process of selecting a small-to-midsize burg to deploy WiMax technology on a trial basis.

Industry executives hope that WiMax will usher in a new revolution in wireless communications - one that would give remote Web surfers speedier access to the Internet across distances of up to 30 miles.

Qwest joins other telecom carriers planning to test the much ballyhooed technology with actual customers.

Qwest's trial run is expected to begin in the fourth quarter and last six to nine months.

"It would be a market trial," Balan Nair, Qwest's chief technology officer, said in an interview.

Nair declined to be more precise about where the trial will occur, saying: "It will be close to Denver."

He also suggested it wouldn't be a mountainous locale. The terrain would complicate signal transmission.

Qwest has been testing WiMax among its employees in Denver and in Rio Rancho, N.M., northwest of Albuquerque.

The expanded trial would include actual residential and business users.

Nair said the trial technology probably would have a range of four to five miles and offer speeds "competitive" with digital subscriber line or cable services.

In fact, Qwest wants to select a site where there is little in the way of DSL, the broadband technology that the former Baby Bell already has deployed commercially.

Qwest's WiMax test comes as AT&T Corp. said it plans to install WiMax equipment in Atlanta to conduct the largest-ever test of the technology.

The long-distance company, which is being bought by SBC Communications, will begin the test with big customers in the fourth quarter, Hossein Eslambolchi, AT&T's chief technology officer, told Bloomberg.

BellSouth has said it would set up a WiMax network in Athens, Ga., a town about 65 miles outside of Atlanta and home to the University of Georgia.

If it ultimately flies, WiMax may be an affordable answer for frustrated Web surfers who crave quick Internet access but can't get it the wired way because DSL or cable service isn't available in their area.

In Qwest's case, the company wants to use its upcoming trial to test the technology's speed, its reach and customers' experience, among other things.