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Nextel's Wireless Broadband To Be Fast But Late

Nextel has narrowed down its wireless broadband technology choices to two but, in either case, the company will be later to market than many of its competitors, an executive of the company said Friday. However, when the technology is finally available, it will be significantly faster than wireless broadband offered by other wireless operators, the executive said.

The company is deciding between FLASH-OFDM wireless broadband from Flarion Technology and the next generation of EV-DO technology, according to Bin Shen, Nextel's senior director of strategic marketing. He also is program director for Nextel's FLASH-OFDM field trial in North Carolina.

Shen acknowledged that the company does not expect to complete its nationwide roll-out until, at the earliest, the end of 2006. By contrast, Verizon Wireless claims it will be finished rolling out its current-generation EV-DO network by next summer (click here for a review of Verizon's service) and Sprint says it will be finished by the end of next year.

But when Nextel is done, the company will be offering data speeds of about 1 Mbps. Shen said both FLASH -OFDM and the next generation of EV-DO, which is based on CDMA technology, will deliver roughly the same speeds. By contrast, other wireless operators, such as Verizon Wireless, already are rolling out current versions of EV-DO, but that technology typically only provides speeds of 384 Kbps.

In any case, the company is not considering the more widely-discussed WiMAX for broad commercial rollout. One reason for that is that initial versions of WiMAX will not provide for mobility and, in addition to speed, mobility was a key consideration for Nextel, Shen said.

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