Mobile broadband junkies just got another shot of endorphins from Nextel Communications (Nasdaq: NXTL ) today with the announcement of a commercial launch of its wireless broadband trial. The broadband wireless service has been offered to select customers on a trial basis in the Raleigh-Durham, N.C., area for the past few months, and the company was obviously pleased with the results.
Consistent with its roots, Nextel embraced an alternative technology from privately held Flarion Technologies to deliver speedy bits to its mobile customers. The technology, called Flash-OFDM, was developed by some creative minds at Lucent (NYSE: LU ) and is also being tested by many international carriers.
The announcement comes as several U.S. competitors are also rolling ahead with wireless broadband initiatives. AT&T Wireless (NYSE: AWE ) announced the first national broadband wireless network, though, data speeds, averaging around 100 kbps, are not on par with other offerings. Verizon Wireless -- part of parent Verizon Communications (NYSE: VZ ) -- announced a push to offer its much faster BroadbandAccess service nationwide. Also, competition from Wi-Fi hot spots, such as a recent deal to light upMcDonald's (NYSE: MCD ) , attempts to lure laptop- and PDA-toting consumers.
Nextel is also upping the ante on competing offerings -- its technology claims typical downstream speeds (from the Internet to the user) of a whopping 1.5 Mbps. That's about three times faster than Verizon's Qualcomm (Nasdaq: QCOM ) -powered service and 15 times faster than AT&T Wireless' EDGE technology.
More importantly, however, is that the typical uplink speed Nextel claims is 375 kbps, far faster than the 40 to 60 kbps offered even by Verizon. The uplink speed can make a big difference to users who transfer large files or email attachments while mobile, or who use applications such as video conferencing. Competing offerings that are weak in the uplink speeds struggle with large uploads and bit-intensive peer-to-peer communication applications.
If and when Nextel goes nationwide with the service, it will offer yet another option for consumers and business customers. The competition will also help drop prices further -- $80 per month is currently the norm for unlimited wireless broadband. However, Nextel has differentiated itself with a multitiered pricing scheme that ranges from $35 to $75 per month. On cheaper plans, users opt for slower speeds or limits on total data consumption.
With free and paid Wi-Fi also expanding, reasonably priced broadband wireless services may not be too far off for mainstream American consumers.
Each month, Tom and David Gardner serve up their two best investment ideas forMotley Fool Stock Advisorsubscribers. You can check it out for six months with a money-back guarantee.
Fool contributor Dave Mock's endorphin levels have been known to spike at the mention of Scooby Snacks. He owns shares of Nextel and Lucent.