Sprint Lights Up WiMax in Baltimore

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Telecommunications operator Sprint has officially launched its Xohm 4G WiMax wireless data network in Baltimore, Maryland, with additional rollouts planning in other markets scheduled to come online as Sprint builds out a promised nationwide network—Washington D.C. and Chicago should be next followed by Dallas-Ft. Wroth, Boston, Providence, and Philadelphia.

“This is truly an historic day with the birth of a completely new Internet-based business model that alters the dynamics of the traditional telecom industry,” said Sprint’s president for the Xohm business unit Barry West, in a statement. “Wireless consumers 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.”

WiMax service promised to offer average downstream bandwidth of 2 to 4 megabits per second to WiMax-enabled mobile devices, phones, and computers. Of course, Sprint plans to leverage the new bandwidth capabilities to offer content and services like music, video, and on-demand information and entertainment services.

Starting today, Sprint is offering Sprint-branded Samsung Express air WiMax cards for $59.99 and ZyXel WiMax models for $79.99, and additional WiMax products are expected to be available later this year. At launch, Sprint is offering three levels of WiMax service plans: A $10 day pas, a $25/month Home Internet Service, and a $30/month on-the-go service—along with a special two-device $50/month plan. Xohm users can also tap into MyXohm, a specialized Web service offering local information and entertainment content, along with security services, hosted storage, and “interactive communications.”

Sprint is currently in the process of combining its Xohm WiMax business with Clearwire to form a new company in the fourth quarter of 2008 under the Clearwire name. Once Clearwire is up and running, Sprint will be the only nationwide wireless carrier to offer WiMax services through Clearwire.

Sprint’s WiMax network has been a long time coming, as the company has struggled to fund deployment of a nationwide network (necessitating the partnerships with Clearwire and other backers). The question is how well Sprint/Clearwire will be able to capitalize on offering the only 4G data service in the United States market for a while. Verizon and other major players have laid their bets on the competing LTE technology, to be deployed in the 700 MHz spectrum bands soon to be vacated by analog television broadcasts. But LTE networks are still years away, while Sprint/Clearwire is getting into the market now.

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