ANCHORAGE (AP) -- Alaska's largest city will be one of the first places nationwide to get a new service that bypasses traditional wires, instead beaming phone calls and high-speed Internet directly into homes.
AT&T Wireless, which is planning the service, says it could dramatically change the way communications services are delivered.
Up to 20 towers, most of them current cell phone towers, will be used to relay calls and data signals between Anchorage homes and AT&T's switching center. A small antenna shaped like a pizza box will connect home devices to the wireless network.
The network is under construction and AT&T plans to start offering service in Anchorage by the end of the year, Michael Keith, chief executive and president at AT&T Wireless, told the Anchorage Daily News in an interview.
Prices haven't been set yet but will be competitive with other local phone and high-speed Internet services, Keith said.
The service, when it's rolled out across the country, could save AT&T billions in fees it now pays local phone companies. Last year, AT&T paid $14.7 billion in local and long-distance access charges, almost a third of the company's total expenses, according to its annual report.
The new service initially would be offered only to households, with small businesses next on the list. Customers will be able to surf the Internet and make phone calls at the same time, according to AT&T.
In addition to Anchorage, AT&T is rolling out the Digital Broadband service this year in San Diego, Los Angeles and Houston. It hopes to make the systems available to 15 million homes nationwide by 2003.
''Anchorage will teach us how to sell it in smaller communities,'' Keith said.
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