12:05 PM

Sprint Gets Help With Its 'Xohm' WiMax Soft Launch

Portal services providers like Amdocs, SwapDrive, eTelecare Global Solutions, and McAfee are among those helping Sprint bolster its metro wireless endeavors.

Sprint on Tuesday refuted speculations that it's putting an end to its WiMax efforts and announced partnerships with providers of Web portal services and network access devices that will take part in the launch of Sprint's Xohm mobile Internet service.

Xohm is the name of Sprint's planned high-speed wireless network based on WiMax technology. A "soft" launch is already underway in Chicago, Baltimore, and Washington D.C. and a commercial WiMax service will be introduced later this year in select U.S. cities, according to Sprint.

Sprint's new partnerships for Xohm include several portal services providers, such as Amdocs, which signed a multi-year agreement with Sprint to build and maintain the Xohm Internet portal; SwapDrive, which will offer Xohm subscribers hosted storage and access to digital content on the Xohm portal; eTelecare Global Solutions, which will provide customer care services; and McAfee, which will execute online security for computers connected to the WiMax network.

Additionally, Sprint tapped San Francisco-based manufacturer OQO to embed WiMax wireless connectivity in an ultra mobile PC this year, and Taiwan-based AsusTek to develop of a line of devices with WiMax capability, also to be available this year.

Modem supplier ZyXel and chip supplier Sequans plan to collaborate on a WiMax modem subscriber device that will allow subscribers to receive Xohm data and voice services.

Sprint said it's serious about developing the Xohm brand in North America and to aid with its efforts, the carrier has contracted advertising agency Soho Square.

Sprint openly stated that it plans to invest about $5 billion over the next couple of years in deploying WiMax, but faced uncertainty about the network's future when CEO Gary Forsee, who led the WiMax initiative at Sprint, resigned last October. Then last November, Sprint terminated its contract with partner Clearwire, a startup WiMax service provider. And last month, Sprint's acting CEO Paul Saleh told investors that the carrier is considering selling its stake in the WiMax network.

Now with new CEO Daniel Hesse on board, Sprint faces several challenges, including finding an effective way to manage its future WiMax network and its existing CDMA cellular network, which is the core of its business.

Sprint will continue to move forward with its WiMax initiative and this week's developments show progress, said the company's spokesman. The true test will come when Xohm debuts commercially, which according to Sprint, is just around the corner.

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