Sprint (NYSE: S) hit a new milestone recently when it built its 1,000th WiMax base station, which is up and running a full month ahead of schedule, according to Sidecut Reports, which interviewed Xohm President Barry West. With more than 1,066 live towers, the Baltimore network is ready to launch this month, and additional networks in Chicago, Washington, D.C., Boston, Philadelphia and Dallas/Fort Worth are also under development. West did not specify a launch time frame for the new cities, but that the Baltimore and Chicago markets will go live with average download speeds of 3 to 5 Mbps. For the Baltimore launch, they’ll have modems for sale from Zyxel and ZTE as well as two devices for laptops — a dongle from ZTE and a PC card from Samsung. In addition, the WiMax tablet, previously announced by Nokia (NYSE: NOK), will be available shortly after the Baltimore launch.
All of the sudden, Sprint and Clearwire (NSDQ: CLWR), which plan to merge later this year, are in a hurry to prove what WiMax can do. The two companies have a competing technology, LTE, close on its heels, and it needs to hit a critical mass of markets and users in order to convince consumer electronics companies to install WiMax chips into their devices. And, of course, the clock is ticking on both of the company’s cash balance. Once the merger closes, the new entity will get an injection of $3.2 billion from Google (NSDQ: GOOG), Intel (NSDQ: INTC) and a handful of cable companies. You can see how urgent the matter has become when Clearwire announced recently that it will forgo trying to sign up new subscribers in return for focusing on converting over its current proprietary network to the WiMax standard, which can offer faster speeds while on the go unlike the current networks which act more like DSL or cable replacement.