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Fast Forward by Rob Pegoraro
Verizon Wireless Lets You Get Online and Get Out -- Quickly


Rob Pegoraro says Verizon Wireless's PC card is the gateway to costly-but-reliable broadband access on the go. (The Washington Post)

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Monday, 2 p.m. ET: Rob Pegoraro will be online to talk about his latest columns on Verizon Wireless's BroadbandAccess service and e-mail technology.
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Then I tested the reliability of the connection by tuning into a Web radio station's 128-kbps music stream; over about four hours, I heard two or three dropouts. Streaming video wasn't a problem either; a set of large RealVideo "Daily Show with Jon Stewart" interviews and Windows Media movie trailers played back stutter-free.

Files downloaded as fast as they would over my DSL connection. I even logged in to The Washington Post's network and edited a few stories, easily the most bandwidth-sensitive task I do at home.

I also took the laptop for a ride aboveground on Metro, to see if I'd lose the connection while moving from one antenna to another at high speeds. Aside from one fade-out around the Dunn-Loring station, BroadbandAccess worked the same at 60 mph as it did standing still.

On the way back, I expected to get kicked offline as the train went underground, but the connection was silently handed off from the BroadbandAccess signal to the slower, older 1xRTT (1x radio transmission technology) service in the subway.

All that should be great news to anybody who needs Internet access throughout the day for their job -- the consultants, salespeople, real estate agents and other "mobile professionals" to whom Verizon Wireless is pitching this service.

But couldn't this technology also provide broadband to consumers as well as tech workers? EvDO should be cheaper to deploy than cable or DSL: Verizon says expanding its coverage beyond the Washington and San Diego beachheads, as planned for later this year, won't involve much more work than its routine system upgrades.

Could Verizon offer a consumer-oriented version of this for closer to $40 a month?

"Sure," said analyst Jane Zweig, chief executive of the Shosteck Group, a Wheaton-based research firm. There's only one problem: "Right now, they don't have to."

Verizon has no competition at this speed and won't for a while. Carriers using the competing GSM (Global System for Mobile communications) wireless standard aren't close; for instance, AT&T's new EDGE (Enhanced Data Rates for Global Evolution) service tops out at 200 kbps.

Nextel is trying out a different wireless-data technology in North Carolina that offers 1.5 to 3 Mbps downloads and 375 to 750 kbps uploads. But it hasn't said anything about when this trial might lead to a commercial service, or what it might cost.

Sprint PCS does use the same wireless standard as Verizon, but it plans to skip EvDO in favor of a faster successor to it, EvDV (Evolution Data-Voice) that's probably two years off.

In the meantime, Verizon Wireless can still make plenty of money catering to tech businesses. Would it want to risk undercutting its corporate parent's DSL business anyway?

And yet: One of the major wireless carriers in Japan, KDDI Corp., charges less than $40 a month for unlimited use of its own EvDO service. If fast wireless Internet access wasn't too much to hope for after all, affordable, fast wireless Internet access shouldn't be impossible either.

Living with technology, or trying to? E-mail Rob Pegoraro at

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