Nextel is opening up its trial broadband wireless network in North Carolina to paying customers: The network uses proprietary hardware from Flarion. Initial trialers came from Cisco, Nortel, and IBM and they offered their comments on the service.
Nextel is also expanding the network to cover a broader range and offering a special $50 price for PC cards and modems. The monthly pricing options are pretty good too. For $50 a month, users get unlimited 750 Kbps down and 250 Kbps up. That's comparable to DSL or cable modem service but also includes the benefit of mobility. Higher speeds are available for higher prices.
If Nextel decides to roll this out in other markets, the operator would again be carving itself a unique spot in the market. The other cellular operators seem to be focusing their data services on cell phones, not laptop users. Those services are also more expensive than Nextel's offering. Plus, Nextel is positioning its service as a replacement for DSL or cable while the other cellular operators are touting their data offerings mainly as mobile services.
But once again Nextel would be using a proprietary technology which means the network will be more expensive for Nextel to build than the standard gear used by the other cellular operators and Nextel would have to build an extensive network because users can't roam.
As Nextel moves forward with the North Carolina offering and beings advertising, it'll be interesting to watch how the service is positioned. I think it's notable that one of the quotes from a trialer in the news release says that he stops in at cafes to open his laptop and use the Nextel service. That sounds like a direct shot at Wi-Fi offerings in cafes.