The wireless future has finally arrived.
For years critics pointed to more evolved European and Asian mobile cultures as the U.S. market swam in a wireless backwater. Now, the U.S. leaps into 3G with an announcement from Verizon Wireless (NYSE: VZ ) to expand its wireless 3G network nationwide. Yesterday, at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), Verizon committed to expanding the network to several major markets by the end of summer 2004, offering subscribers unlimited wireless broadband data for $79.99 a month.
Verizon launched Qualcomm- (Nasdaq: QCOM ) designed 1x EV-DO technology in Washington D.C. and San Diego markets last year, offering users faster downstream speeds. With the expanding footprint, the network will have a decided speed advantage over AT&T Wireless's (NYSE: AWE ) nationwide EDGE network, and a significant roaming advantage over proliferating Wi-Fi hotspots that only cover small areas around centralized locations, such as Starbucks' (Nasdaq: SBUX ) wired cafe program.
Verizon's shares were up $0.56, to $37.12, on the news, and followed only a day after a headline-grabbing deal with Nortel moving the wireless leader headlong into VoIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) networks.
Qualcomm was an even bigger winner, though. Their shares surged $3.19 -- over 5% -- on the news, fueling momentum in the stock as its CDMA technology start to gain traction.
Going forward, the aggressive push by the No. 1 wireless provider will send shock waves throughout the industry, compelling other providers, such as AT&T Wireless; Cingular, a joint venture between SBC (NYSE: SBC ) and Bellsouth (NYSE: BLS ) ; and T-Mobile, a subsidiary of Deutsche Telekom AG (NYSE: DT ) to match the offering.
CDMA operator SprintPCS (NYSE: PCS ) has opted to bypass the 1x EV-DO upgrade to their Vision service. With a weaker spectrum position and capacity strain in some markets, SprintPCS has opted instead to wait for a future standard termed 1x EV-DV, which is more flexible in handling both voice and data demands from users (EV-DO requires the operator to dedicate precious spectrum to data transmission only).
But broadband junkies and investors alike are hoping SprintPCS and others will take Verizon's cue and upgrade sooner rather than later. One or more competitive offerings would boost capital investments and help drop the price of services -- benefiting investors and consumers alike.
Dave Mock thinks wireless and coffee go together like peas and carrots. Dave currently owns shares of Starbucks and is author of Tapping into Wireless. He welcomes your feedback, fish stories, and golf tips at [email protected].