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Verizon Is Not the Nation's First

New York Times - BUSINESS/FINANCIAL DESK January 28, 2002, Monday
Fast Hookup With Cellphone Is Expected From Verizon

"Verizon Wireless is expected to offer nation's first commercial 'third-generation' wireless service, which would provide users with fast access to Internet through cellphones."

What? Last Monday Verizon spread the word that they were the first carrier to offer third generation services. It is true that along the eastern seaboard from Virginia to Maine, around the bay area in San Francisco, California, and in Salt Lake City, Utah (in time for the Olympics) wireless internet users are now able to download wireless data using speeds ranging up to 144kps. But it is not true that this is the first commercial roll-out of 3G services in the U.S.. Just ask the folks in Sioux Falls, SD.

Monet Gets There First - In the Upper Mid-West

Barely making any media splash, Monet Mobile Networks Inc. launched a CDMA 1xRTT 3G network in Sioux Falls, SD on October 24th, 2001. Using a Novatel Wireless and GTRAN Wireless PC card modems, the citizens of Sioux Falls have been downloading data through the airwaves faster than over land lines for three months. George Tronsrue III, CEO of Monet Mobile Networks, generously says that Verizon's claim helps create more interest in high speed data networks. "Everybody always likes to be first," he explains. "There is no shortage in the history of the telecommunications market of companies claiming to be first. My reaction was - it's funny. But it's like a chimpanzee and an eight hundred pound gorilla. I'm not going to correct them, especially as I want that gorilla to be my friend one day. We actually thought - good - at least there's a company that cares enough about next generation data networks to say it was first." George Tronsrue has taken part in seven start-ups and knows the value of a polite answer.

The Big Fish in a Small Pond

George Tronsrue also knows the value of working in overlooked markets. Monet Mobile Networks' business plan is to offer an easy-to-install, wireless PC card modem, compatible with desktop, laptops and handheld PCs. Monet charges the user a flat $50 rate for a month. Instead of focusing on the large urban markets like the major carriers, Monet offers data-only services as internet connections in areas where DSL or broadband is not easily available. They recently launched their service in Fargo, where they received a very warm reception from the town. "We're big stuff when we come to town," says George Tronsrue. "We had a four minute spot on the news. We talked to the mayor and said, look at the services we've brought to your town. You need to help us sign people up. You can't do that in New York." You certainly couldn't do that when Rudy G. was mayor.

Monet's business plan does not stop at offering 1xRTT. By the end of 2002 Monet hopes to offer 1xEV-DO is 14-20 cities in North Dakota, South Dakota, Kansas, Wisconsin, and Minnesota. 1xEV-DO can support access speeds up to 2.4 mbps. Monet is looking at college towns that have efficient spectrum costs, and as they are looking at smaller areas they do not have to deploy a "ton of base stations."

The Grass Always Looks Greener on the Other Side of the Fence

In the gray slushy doldrums of February many New Yorkers let their thoughts escape to images of farmlands and wide-open spaces. For those who live and work around Silicon Alley, the addictive pull of being near one of the global centers of technology usually keeps you in the Big Apple. But now that Sioux Falls, SD is at the cutting edge of wireless technology....

Monet Mobile Networks is the first company to launch 3G speeds to the U.S., and George Tronsrue plainly finds what New Yorkers can do with their wireless devices not very exciting at all. "While many wireless companies are hyping theoretical technology, the best they can do is deliver Space Invaders and Britney Spears ring tones to mobile phones," he says. "What consumers are looking for is an untethered version of the Internet experience they have come to expect at work, school and home that doesn't require a new device. Monet's technology is both cutting-edge and practical, which is appealing to our customers."
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