Sprint's effort with WiMax had been plagued with delays and startup agonies that contributed to the demise of its former CEO, Gary Forsee. But the company said it believes the debut of WiMax service will prove that it made the right bet on WiMax from the beginning. Sprint noted that the debut represents the official launch of its XOHM mobile broadband commercial service.
The WiMax service, which has been in "soft" launch mode for months, is getting initial positive reviews. In a demo earlier this month for a Baltimore Sun reporter, Sprint employees drove through the city in a van with a large video screen and several wireless laptops. Sprint said the download speed for watching a movie was 6 Mbps.
"That kind of download speed compares favorably with the performance of wired options for home use, such as cable modems and digital subscriber lines offered through telephone companies," according to the newspaper.
Sprint said consumers can purchase XOHM Samsung Express air cards for $59.99 and ZyXEL modems for $79.99. Sprint added that Intel Centrino 2 WiMax notebook PCs and the Nokia N810 WiMax Edition are expected to reach the market later this year. The Baltimore debut is a high point, too, for Intel, which has pioneered and nurtured WiMax for several years. A flood of laptops with Intel WiMax chipsets built in is expected to hit the marketplace in the coming months.
Also, Motorola is demonstrating a WiMax laptop USB dongle at WiMax World in Chicago this week.
An unusual highlight of the Baltimore service is that no onerous long-term contracts are required. "A single monthly charge covers service for multiple WiMax access devices," Sprint said.
Before the end of the year, Sprint said it will unveil a combo 3G-4G device that will enable subscribers to use the company's CDMA 3G network as well as its WiMax network. The company plans to roll out the WiMax network gradually, with Washington; Chicago; Dallas-Fort Worth; Providence, R.I.; and Philadelphia slated to be among the early deployments.
Sprint said the Baltimore offering will feature a $10 daily pass, a $25-a-month home plan, and a $30-a-month on-the-go plan.
"Wireless customers will experience WiMax device and XOHM service innovation on multiple levels as the computer, Internet, telecom and consumer electronics industries converge to redefine wireless mobility," said Barry West, president of Sprint's XOHM business unit, in a statement. Sprint said average downlink speeds would be between 2 and 4 Mbps.
A user-customizable MyXOHM Web site featuring local services and entertainment, including widgets, is also launching with the Baltimore service. The Web site includes security services and hosted storage offerings.
The Baltimore launch is the first WiMax launch by a major cell phone service provider, Sprint said. A few regional mobile WiMax services have been in operation for several months.
Also working with Sprint on the XOHM WiMax ecosystem are Nokia Siemens networks, Google, ZTE, and Motorola.
The Baltimore launch is expected to be an important test bed for Sprint's planned partnership with Clearwire, which has been deploying fixed WiMax in various locations in the United States and globally. The new company will be called Clearwire, Sprint noted, adding that the combined company plans a nationwide WiMax network.