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Residents attending a town hall meeting at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni last week asked base officials when wireless broadband Internet service would be available to the entire base community.

The answer? Maybe early next month.

The wireless option is in use by only about 900 subscribers in the Monzen and main base housing areas, where the signal is strongest, according to a Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corp. official. Currently, the NTT wireless signal lacks the strength and bandwidth needed for complete coverage of the base, NTT’s Chiaki Chung said Friday.

In October, Iwakuni’s Marine Corps Community Services announced it had negotiated an agreement allowing NTT to provide broadband wireless service starting Dec. 1.

Registration for the service began Nov. 23, but as signal weaknesses were discovered, many of the early subscribers were refunded, Chung said, and were offered dial-up service in the interim.

MCCS spokesman Steve Howard said Thursday that ongoing wireless upgrades are to create greater bandwidth and better overall quality of the wireless signal reaching the entire base.

By the end of this month, NTT will have more than doubled the number of transmitters on the air station that connect to backbone networks, Howard said. Then subscribers with wireless-compatible components or adapters will be able to log on to the transmitted wireless network signal with a username and password.

When the wireless network was installed, officials believed four transmitter locations would suffice, Howard said, but now NTT is “increasing from four to 11 all around the air station and introducing indoor boosters and range extenders.”

Once the work is complete, he said, connectivity and signal strength will increase, connections will be speedier and ports can be opened for applications such as gaming and e-learning.

NTT’s Chung said it’s possible basewide service could begin in early May, “but we are not completely sure of a date.”

Before the wireless upgrades are functional, Chung said, customers are offered unlimited 54K dial-up accounts for $35 a month, with the option to switch to wireless once work and tests are done.

Howard said the base telephone office has a limited number of ADSL lines available on a first-come, first-served basis, but there currently is a waiting list.

The basic NTT wireless broadband package is $45 per month with a one-time registration of $25, Howard said. Call Iwakuni’s NTT office at DSN 253-3270 or visit its Web site at www.nttmil.net for more information.

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