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Wireless may replace phone lines in Sandy-ravaged areas of N.Y., N.J.

July 23, 2013 08:01 AM ET

At $17,000 per affected customer -- 635 in all -- replacing all the lost copper could cost nearly $11 million. Verizon didn't estimate the costs of installing Voice Link.

Prior to installing Voice Link in Sandy-hit areas, Verizon had been marketing the product in Virginia, Florida and other states where it has customers using copper. About 2,000 customers nationwide use Voice Link today, Maguire said.

"Less than 5% of all our copper customers are candidates for Voice Link, in places where they've had multiple troubles with copper over the years, and don't have the need for FAX or alarm monitoring," Maguire said.

Maguire said that Verizon is constantly upgrading the capabilities of the Voice Link technology. Originally it had no precise E911 service. That capability has been added to Voice Link, along with support for ADT, a major security service.

"In the grand scheme, we might develop data capabilities for Voice Link," Maguire said. "But faxing, is that really important? Nobody faxes any more." Someday, even LTE could be supported, though LTE today is just for data.

Voice Link today also doesn't connect to radio signals sent out from ankle bracelets worn by home detainees. It's an area that Verizon needs to address to help local court systems keep track of people legally detained at their homes, Maguire said.

Verizon and other carriers are constantly evaluating new small cellular technologies that can be used in homes or small businesses to connect to wireless networks instead of using copper or fiber, he added.

Just this week, Nextivity announced it is working with AT&T to provide its Cel-Fi smart signal booster for use on the AT&T wireless network. The Cel-Fi technology is already offered by T-Mobile US.

So far, Cel-Fi technology only works with GSM carriers, whose list doesn't include Verizon Wireless or Sprint. An LTE-only version of Cel-Fi is planned for release early in 2014, and thus could potentially impact Verizon and Sprint.

Cel-Fi doesn't require a DSL connection to the Internet as do femtocell devices, another variety of small wireless technology, according to Werner Sievers, CEO of Nextivity. He said for customers with poor indoor wireless service, the Cel-Fi technology can boost a signal from four to 50 times.

Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at Twitter@matthamblen, or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed Hamblen RSS. His email address is mhamblen@computerworld.com.

Read more about Mobile/Wireless in Computerworld's Mobile/Wireless Topic Center.



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