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March 4, 1997updated 05 Sep 2016 1:01pm

WIRELESS TECHNOLOGY PUTS AT&T IN THE LOCAL LOOP

By CBR Staff Writer

As expected (CI No 3,107) AT&T Corp has announced a new fixed wireless technology able to carry high-speed digital communications directly to most households across the US, at many times the capacity of traditional copper wire. The announcement reveals why the company was so keen to acquire McCaw Cellular Communications Inc and a string of Personal Communications Services licenses. It will enable the company to bypass the regional Bell operating companies and launch a local telephone service US-wide using fixed radio links to connect into its long- distance network. The Regional Bells, and other local telephone companies, will then get paid only for delivering calls to their subscribers. Key to the system is an electronic box that links home telephones directly to the AT&T wireless network. The fixed wireless system will initially provide each household with two phone lines and the capability for high-speed Internet access at 128 kilobits per second. The technology includes encryption capabilities to protect privacy and prevent fraud. The new system will connect a consumer’s home to an AT&T digital switching centre via a neighborhood antenna mounted on a utility pole or other structure. A single antenna will serve up to 2,000 homes. The customer would require a transceiver about the size of a pizza box that can be mounted on the side or back of a house. During the past two years, AT&T has acquired through Federal Communications Commission auctions the licenses for the 10MHz radio spectrum it needs to provide the new technology to customers in more than 93% of the US. Consumers will be able to use their existing touch-tone wired telephones and keep their current phone numbers. The new technology will enable wireless phones to be used as extensions in user homes at local service rates. They can also use the same wireless phones for mobile service in areas served by AT&T’s wireless network, paying mobility rates. The company will begin a beta test in metropolitan Chicago later this year. According to the Wall Street Journal, AT&T’s Wireless Systems may charge as little as a $10 flat monthly fee for unlimited local calls from home. The Personal Base Station access box will sell for less than $300.

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