Verizon Wireless will make its BroadbandAccess mobile data service available to a third of its US. wireless customers this year.
BroadbandAccess will deliver between 300Kbps and 500Kbps to phones and PDAs that will be introduced later this year as well as to already available PC Card radios for notebook computers.
The service is already available in San Diego and the Washington, DC area. In those areas it costs $79.99 per month with a one-year contract.
Organisations are clamouring for this kind of service so they can make their existing applications available to employees on the move, said Verizon Wireless executive vice president and chief technical officer Richard Lynch.
The service, which uses a CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access) technology called EV-DO (Evolution-Data Only), will be deployed in a few more cities at first and later in the year will be rolled out in successive waves.
EV-DO, as its name implies, is designed specifically to carry data packets. Initially at least, the CDMA2000-1x infrastructure already deployed across Verizon's national network will handle voice calls.
However, the new technology may well carry voice calls in the future using VoIP, Lynch said. He was cagey about the carrier's plans for EV-DV (Evolution-Data-Voice), another emerging CDMA technology designed to carry both data and voice.
Verizon's first priority is deploying the data service where demand is greatest and it is waiting to set its plans for EV-DV, partly because it may not be necessary if voice can be moved onto the data network in a few years.
Verizon intends to invest a total of $1bn over the next two years to set up the new service.
Verizon also announced contracts with Lucent Technologies and Nortel Networks to provide infrastructure for BroadbandAccess. The company is expected to spend $167m on Nortel infrastructure in 2005. Lucent announced a three-year agreement under which Verizon is expected to invest more than $525m in Lucent infrastructure products during the first two years of the deal
Verizon also will work with SK Telecom, which has 4.4 million EV-DO subscribers in South Korea, to learn from SK's experience and jointly develop future technology and applications, said Ronald Maness, senior director of SK Telecom International, which is SK's US subsidiary.
Lynch also did not give details on the possible involvement of Motorola, which has been a Verizon partner in the past, in building out EV-DO or EV-DV networks.
The carrier expects to continue working with existing handset partners such as South Korean vendors LG Electronics and Samsung. There are about 40 EV-DO handset models available in South Korea, which could be adapted for US use relatively quickly through implementation of features such as E911 capability, Lynch said.
Although Verizon's immediate focus is on enterprises making existing applications mobile, a Verizon executive believed consumer services will catch on as well, citing SK's success with consumers in South Korea.
"We do believe that much of what SK has delivered will have applicability in the US," said John Stratton, vice president and chief marketing officer of Verizon.
Stephen Lawson writes for IDG News Service