New Internet service to allow wireless anywhere

Agency employees and other mobile workers will soon be able to log on to the Internet from virtually anywhere in the Washington, D.C., area, thanks to a new offering that Verizon Wireless and Qualcomm Inc. are rolling out this fall.

Unlike wireless fidelity, which requires users to be within the limited range of a wired access point radio transmitter, the new service will be as ubiquitous as mobile phone coverage, said John Johnson, director of corporate communications for Verizon Wireless. Users can log on from their desks, public transportation, parks, homes or anywhere else within the coverage area.

The companies are blanketing their first two markets, Washington and San Diego, with base stations to provide the connection, said Jonas Neihardt, vice president of federal government affairs for Qualcomm. "This whole area is going to become a [wireless] hot spot 60 miles wide," he said.

Verizon has yet to set pricing or announce a brand name for the service. It is based on Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA), a cellular telephone technology that Qualcomm developed and is used by several cellular services. The Internet technology is called 1X Evolutionary-Data Optimized, or 1XEV-DO.

The system is theoretically capable of moving data at 2.4 megabits/sec. In reality, throughput rates usually range from 300 to 800 kilobits/sec. Verizon is incorporating a range of security tools into the system, said Fran Filippelli, a senior systems engineer for Verizon.

Agencies also can use existing virtual private network technology.

Procurement officials who want the new service should be able to get it through normal procurement channels as Verizon makes it available, said John Johnson, assistant commissioner of service development and acting assistant commissioner of service delivery at the General Services Administration's Federal Technology Service, and unrelated to Verizon's Johnson.

Modifications to existing contracts, such as the FTS 2001 telecommunications vehicle, can come from various directions, he said. "A provider might come to us with a new service that's within the scope of the contract."

Verizon's competitors also offer wireless access, although not to the same degree as Verizon plans. That's not necessarily a liability, said MCI spokeswoman Natasha Haubold.

"What we found is not everybody is going to want to use wireless for everything," she said. Customers concerned about security often opt for a wired connection.

Warren Suss, president of Suss Consulting Inc. in Jenkintown, Pa., said that if agencies are convinced that the Verizon technology is secure, they will snap it up.

"I think this will be an enormously attractive service for government employees. Not only will it be attractive to the mobile worker, it will address some of the work-from-home issues," he said. "If it really provides the functionality and the security that agencies need, I think it will take off like a rocket."

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