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Embedded EV-DO to challenge WiFi

WiFi is becoming ubiquitous in the sense that more and more handheld devices incorporate the technology. WiFi hot spots, however, are not ubiquitous, so you may be carrying a WiFi-enabled device but still cannot make an Internet connection. The short range of WiFi and the slowness of developing more roaming agreements among carriers do not help. Into this gap steps Verizon Wireless. The company is aggressively pushing PC notebook makers to embed CDMA EV-DO chips in their gear -- and it has already convinced Dell, Lenovo, and HP to do so.

EV-DO is not exactly a speed demon -- indeed, next to some WiFi versions it looks more like a crippled snail. Still, Verizon offers speeds of 400 Kbps to 700 Kbps sixty metropolitan areas and sixty airports, with seamless fall back to the slower 1X RTT network in many more places. The key selling point: EV-DO may be slower, but you can connect practically anywhere.

Will embedding EV-DO capabilities in handhelds materially affect the trend of WiFi nibbling -- energetically nibbling -- at the revenues carriers were hoping to realize from cellular data and voice services? I think not. There is no turning of the tide. The steady if slow spread of muni-WiFi -- just imagine what Intel-backed Digital Communities initiative will do in this respect -- and the coming of full-fledged WiMax in both its fixed and mobile versions, will undercut Verizon's effort. Too little, too late.

For more on Verizon's move
 - see Andrew Orlowski's TheRegister report

MORE: Verizon Wireless is cutting the prices of its wireless Internet service by as much as 25 percent. Report.

ALSO: On Intel's Digital Communities initiative, see this report.

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