Wireless enthusiasts cut cord on telephone, Internet lines

From his small Nob Hill apartment, Jason Callough jumps online at least once a day, checking whether his Web-posted rŽsumŽ has generated any prospects.

While online, he checks movie listings and scans financial Web sites. He also regularly e-mails his friends about their nightly social plans.

Callough, 26, is living a truly wired life, with one big difference. He uses no wires. His apartment not only lacks hard-wired telephone hookups, it lacks any kind of wired Internet connection.

Callough is one of a small but growing cadre of Portlanders that has eschewed phone and Internet lines. Call them the Great Unwired, a microscopic subset of computer users who, in making the most of their cellular services, have cut the cords.

'It's working out great for me,' said Callough, who ditched his phone wires last June. 'It's really simplified everything. I don't even have a computer. If I need to use one, I'll just go to an Internet cafe or the library.'

Callough is one of the first to take the logical next step in an increasingly wireless world. A January USA Today/CNN/Gallup Poll reported that 18 percent of dialers use cellphones as their primary calling options.

Cellular providers predict that wireless Internet usage will similarly explode this summer when several new technologies accelerate airborne transmission speeds.

Most wireless Internet data currently travels at a poky 14.4 kilobytes per second; the so-called third-generation, or '3G,' wireless Internet data could hit initial speeds of 144 kilobytes per second.

A boon for the footloose

Companies such as AT&T Wireless, Sprint PCS and VoiceStream have honed wireless Web offerings for several years, transmitting primarily text data to cellphone screens.

Users can also collect transmissions by connecting their cellphones to their laptops or using one of several personal digital assistants that can also access the Web.

'All of these things make going completely wireless a very viable option,' said Kelley Stember, Portland area sales manager for Sprint PCS, who prefers using cord-free technology around her home. 'It's good for people who don't need to do everything on the Internet at home that they do at work.'

For that reason, she added, going wireless works best for those who don't need to perform complicated functions, such as video downloads.

'I just find myself going online a lot less,' Stember said.

The wireless lifestyle works particularly well for footloose, fresh-out-of-college types.

Portland resident Desi Miller, 23, a 'wireless person' until marrying a DSL-dependent man two weeks ago, said she originally dumped her wired connections as she earned her degree.

'When you move from year to year, it's easier to do this because you keep your same number,' she pointed out. 'Plus, if you're in a roommate situation, you don't need to worry about splitting the phone and DSL bills.'

Stember agreed. 'Like with cellphones, you don't have to be in one place to use the Internet,' she said. 'You can take your primary information source with you.'

Callough, pointing to his sparsely decorated apartment, further noted that his lack of technology gear gives him much more living space.

Convenience has a price

Wireless advocates praise the convenience of cord-free Web access, but opponents attack the medium's costs. While Sprint PCS customers Miller and Callough laud the company's $10 fixed rate, the firm also levies a fee of 10 cents per logon.

The slow speeds of Internet-enabled cellphones can lead to high charges if customers are charged by the minute, noted Josh Blank, a principal with Pop Art, a Portland-based Web design group. Furthermore, some companies also impose charges based on the volume of data received by the customer.

'The cost per kilobyte to download data is very high today,' Blank said.

Even more expensive are more sophisticated 'broadband wireless' forms typically used by businesses. Boise-based Velocitus Broadband does offer one plan for affluent homeowners: At $119 monthly, the wireless broadband services fit nicely for either home-business operators or those who cannot receive wired DSL in their areas, said Terry Williams, Oregon sales manager for Velocitus.

The 3G technology isn't as fast as Velocitus' wireless service. But Sprint Chairman William Esrey said last month that the faster speeds could deliver such heretofore unattainable functions as opening attachments and displaying more sophisticated graphics.

Esrey's comments helped launch a competitive flurry. AT&T Wireless unveiled its mLife marketing campaign during last Sunday's Super Bowl. The campaign will demonstrate the telecom giant's wireless services as it builds toward its own 3G platforms, which will deliver high-speed data transmissions, said spokesman Michael Broom.

VoiceStream will cast its lot with products developed by MobileStar, the wireless local area network company that it purchased late last year.

While the movement toward eliminating wires is intriguing, it probably won't take complete hold until affordable wireless broadband technologies are released. When that will happen, no one can say.

Still, as long as there are users like Miller, the strategy will always have its possibilities.

'Even though my new husband and I have (wired) DSL, I still never use it,' she said. 'I much prefer being wireless.'

Contact Andy Giegerich at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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