Battle over wireless broadband heats up

Two Internet broadband providers are challenging the wireless territory that Reno-based Great Basin Internet Services has held for the past five years.

The first newcomer is anything but local it's in outer space.

WildBlue Communications, Inc., based in Denver, beams high-speed Internet to much of the nation including the Reno area via satellite.

WildBlue currently holds a lease on Canada's Telesat satellite and plans to launch a second satellite by the end of 2006 to add capacity. The company says it will have 1,600 retailers on the ground by the end of March to serve 25,000 customers.

The service requires clear line-of-sight view of the southern sky.

Like Great Basin, WildBlue's service requires installation of a small satellite dish on the outside of the building.

Founded in 1994, Great Basin began offering wireless broadband five years ago, says Bruce Robertson, president. Reception of the signal requires line-of-sight to the broadcast base station. In Reno, service is available about 14 miles out from the Silver Legacy and by month-end will be available about 10 miles out from the Hilton.

Trees won't block the signal from the Silver Legacy, but will from the Hilton because that service uses a different broadcast frequency.

In the face of competition, Great Basin is honing its strategy to compete.

"We've been here for 12 years and are local. Our service is faster: up to 10 megabits (a T-1 line or DSL is 1.5 Mb/s)," says Robertson.

Plus, says Robertson, Voice-over-Internet-Protocol phone service works well with the Great Basin Internet version.

The latest provider to enter the market is Clearwire, which makes its debut Tuesday at a launch event at the Nevada Museum of Art.

Clearwire serves Reno, Sparks, Carson City, and the Carson Valley. Later this year it will add the Tahoe Basin.

Unlike the others, Clearwire doesn't rely on a satellite dish. Instead, the user plugs in a modem that receives wireless signals.

The method is similar to a cellular telephone network, with transmitters co-located on existing towers already situated throughout the area, says Clark Peterson, Clearwire's president of major markets.

The main benefit, he says, is that consumers no longer are tethered and can take the service out on the patio, or on a boat.

"People like that flexibility," says Neil VanCitters, general manager for the Reno area. "To be home or at a friend's house."

About 35 retail locations will sell the modem.

SBC, which recently merged with AT&T, offers wireless access via its network of Wi-fi hot spots. Its Premier subscription service provides unlimited access to all AT&T Wi-fi Hot Spots plus all roaming partner locations for $22 per month with high-speed Internet and $30 per month with Dial-up. Find hot spot locations at


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