Feature Article

June 23, 2008

Sprint to Launch WiMax in Three U.S. Cities in September

Besieged by new reports that its long-delayed commercial WiMax services won’t be as effective as so-called “3G long-term evolution” anyway, Sprint officials said today that they’re prepared to launch the developing technology in September.
Addressing officials at the recent NXTComm08 convention in Las Vegas, Sprint Chief Executive Officer Dan Hesse set the company’s first firm date for the deployment of WiMax.
According to Hesse, Sprint’s so-called “Xohm” unit will kick off its WiMAX launch in Baltimore in September, with launches in Washington, D.C., and Chicago scheduled for later this year.
 “Consumers still can’t seem to get enough data. WiMax can deliver blazing-fast speeds to all manner of devices, not just cell phones,” Hesse said.
According to London-based Frost & Sullivan  Program Manager Luke Thomas, recent events may thwart the expansion of mobile WiMax – a wireless broadband access alternative to cable and digital subscriber lines that some others say will form the backbone of the Internet’s future.
“For example, Sprint-Nextel recently announced a delay to the commercial roll-out of its Mobile WiMax service, Xohm,” Thomas said, “and has now stated that the first commercial service of Xohm will be in Baltimore in September 2008, followed by Washington, D.C., and Chicago by the fourth quarter of 2008 – provided the new WiMAX venture ‘ClearWire’ deal closes by (then).”
According to Thomas, operators next year will start to see that WiMax isn’t a feasible mobile broadband access option.
“In terms of indoor wireless broadband, Wi-Fi fits well in this space and with the emergence of 802.11n, which includes MIMO, throughputs would be far better than what Mobile WiMax can deliver,” Thomas said. “With respect to outdoor mobile broadband environments, users would expect Mobile WiMax to seamlessly hand off to cellular networks in the absence of WiMax reception. In reality this is not possible as mobile WiMax is not backward compatible with existing cellular technologies.”
Sprint officials concede that major metropolitan areas – outside of the three it mentioned – won’t get WiMax until at least next year, according to the company. The wireless broadband technology is currently deployed in 118 countries and is projected by Sprint to be deployed in more than 200 countries by 2012.
At NXTComm, Xohm’s senior vice president of business operations, Atish Gude, said that the services business partners, including Motorola, Samsung and Intel, will give WiMAX users strong devices and chipsets to use when services are commercially deployed on a more nationwide basis.
“We have crossed several interoperability milestones,” Gude said. “We have put devices through certifications and we have completed a number of data sessions. Samsung’s software has crossed the commercial software threshold, as has Motorola’s.”
Michael Dinan is a TMCNet Editor. To read more of his articles, please visit his columnist page.
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