Wireless Service Provider

Sprint Broadband Direct, Kansas City, Kan. Metricom, San Jose

This category produced one of the more interesting ties. Multiple judges suggested one mobile wireless data company that showed significant innovation — Metricom — that had already folded its tent for financial reasons. Many of the same judges admired Sprint Broadband Direct for its fixed wireless data services.

Metricom, which closed up shop in August, was widely noted for its Ricochet service, which offered unlimited wireless data in 13 major cities at speeds beginning at 128 Kbps. While other companies were bemoaning the lack of wireless data apps, Metricoms service met and even exceeded its promises.

"Metricom had a really innovative product that may have been difficult to execute, but was very valuable to the folks that used it," Gohring says.

Sprint Broadband Direct, headed by Tim Kelly, president of Sprints National Consumer Organization, was cited for bringing new life to Multichannel Multipoint Distribution Service — a technology once known as wireless cable. Both Sprint and WorldCom acquired MMDS licenses, and Sprint has moved aggressively to offer service in cities where it had spectrum, including Phoenix and Tucson in Arizona; Fresno, San Franciso and San Jose in California; Denver and Colorado Springs in Colorado; Melbourne, Fla.; Chicago; Wichita, Kan.; Detroit; Oklahoma City; Salt Lake City; and Houston.

"Sprint Broadband Direct deserves an award for continually being willing to innovate in new areas, take risks and make new markets," Heckart says. "By doing so, they push the entire industry to advance new services and greater choice. It will give the Bells and the cable guys a good run for high-speed Internet access. It installs fast and easy, is cost effective and stays operational."

Others receiving votes: AT&T Wireless

Previous winners: Bell Mobility (2000), AT&T Wireless (1999)