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Summary:

UPDATED: After six months of waiting and a few leaked launch dates, Sprint announced commercial availability for its Xohm WiMAX network in Baltimore with a good pricing plan that undercuts 3G data but only provides limited coverage. However, there are no bandwidth caps. John Polivka, a […]

UPDATED: After six months of waiting and a few leaked launch dates, Sprint announced commercial availability for its Xohm WiMAX network in Baltimore with a good pricing plan that undercuts 3G data but only provides limited coverage. However, there are no bandwidth caps.

John Polivka, a Sprint spokesman said, “We do not plan usage limits or caps. This is why we have maintained WiMAX is a ‘capacity’ story more so than an enhanced network speed story.”

The lack of bandwidth caps, competitive pricing and the fastest wireless network available today, make Xohm compelling, but the coverage is currently limited to Baltimore. The next networks to launch will likely be Chicago and Washington, and Sprint is building out networks in Boston, Providence, Philadelphia, Dallas and Fort Worth. As it goes nationwide, WiMAX could force 3G carriers to upgrade their 5GB limits on data use, or to make their 4G networks unlimited as well.

Xohm offers downlink speeds of 2 Mbps to 4 Mbps, which is faster than current EVDO speeds and even HSDPA networks (although these can and will get faster). Other than speed, the most exciting thing about Xohm is the pricing options. There’s no commitment or contract, and one charge covers all WiMAX enabled devices. Currently there are only a few data cards out there, but more are in the works including the Nokia N810 WiMAX tablet (shown here), a few Intel notebooks and a some data cards and USB modems. But the network is open, and Sprint is working hard to bring alternative gadgets onto the network.

At launch, mobile WiMAX service plans include a $10 day pass, $25 monthly home Internet service and a $30 monthly mobile service available on any WiMAX device. Special launch pricing includes a $50 “Pick 2 for Life” monthly service option covering two different WiMAX devices. If the network expands nationwide, this might be a good option, assuming prices will rise as coverage expands — and that the coverage is good.

Before the end of the year, Sprint says it will launch a dual-mode device that takes advantage of its 3G and WiMAX networks, which could be sweet, especially as the carrier enters into its nationwide WiMAX joint venture with Clearwire in December. But after the long wait for Xohm, consumers may want to wait and see if Sprint can fulfill its coverage promises before getting psyched up over the pledged multi-mode device.

  1. this is the future.

    i think many people will be surprised not only at the growth of this network; but also at the speed in which users begin to drop their wired DSL/Cable connections.

    also the big bulk of usage will not be on cool mobile devices like the nokia n810 but regular old laptop computers.

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  2. Have WiMax scar tissue! Monday, September 29, 2008

    Stacey and Om. you are a smart folk who knows this space. Why do you think this even has a chance in hell in succeeding. The service highlights:

    1-2MB download/.5-1M upload real throughput (stop quoting theoretical numbers – that’s just engineering propaganda) – don’t tell me in a full metro buildout you will get 4MB average download – the only way that happens is if you have no adoption (the constraints of the backhaul networks alone will not make this math work).

    Consumer pricing that needs to be (post this initial promo) in the $40ish/month range (may be off $5 here either direction) to fund the buildout

    All the complexities of mesh network deployment (1km-ish cells)

    Spotty coverage even in the initial markets (will make T-Mobile look good ;)

    Bad spectrum for a mobile play

    Addtional CPE for home that a consumer has to pay for, one way or the other

    No triple/quad play economics to afford the high CPA expenses

    Stop me if you’ve had enough!

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  3. What about latency? The old 3G networks has to much latency to make VoIP a nice experience. But the 3,5G networks that are now used in most parts are good enough for VoIP.

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  4. @Have WiMax scar tissue!

    This is not a mesh topology. The backhaul is completely separate and I believe mostly wired.

    You are quite wrong to be pessimistic about link speeds as compared to incumbent 3G. Xohm has 100MHz of spectrum available in their markets, unencumbered by legacy use. Even assuming LTE brings bits/HZ parity, Xohm will always have more bandwidth because they have more spectrum. Anyway, a real world speed of 2M down / 1 M up would be 3X faster than what you get with current 3G deployments (assuming at least a moderately loaded network). And 3X is exactly what I would expect, given that Xohm is deploying in 3X the spectral bandwidth that AT&T is using for HSPA.

    Also 2.6GHz is fine for mobility. The real shortcoming of this network will be building penetration in urban areas. Given how poorly Sprint and the others have addressed this issue with their existing PCS networks, I’d say this is a significant concern. I think they will be counting on devices that can roam on to WiFi mitigate the need to deploy a lot of in-building WiMAX.

    @Andreas

    Latency should be far better than any US 3G build, because there is no interface with a legacy circuit switched core. The incumeants didn’t have to build their 3G networks that way, but they did because they like sticking with their comfort zones.

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  5. [...] Higginbotham, Tuesday, September 30, 2008 at 12:05 PM PT Comments (0) Yesterday Sprint launched its Xohm WiMAX service in Baltimore, the first step toward what could become a nationwide, alternative wireless broadband network. [...]

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  6. Have WiMax scar tissue! Tuesday, September 30, 2008

    @jesse-

    Thanks for your response. A few additional facts:

    1. With cell sizes of 1KM, this involved LOTS of physical buildout just to cover a single DMA, and with it, lots of hassles on getting antenna mounting locations that work – that is why it reminds me so much of mesh deployments.

    2. The spectrum is not great spectrum – really poor building penetration (which we both agree on), and much more susceptible to ground effect signal degradation – basic RF engineering math supports this POV.

    3. The average full deployment and adoption stats stand as quotes – targets of 2MB down/1MB up end-to-end.

    4. There is no really material bandwidth spread from 3G that creates a material new consumer experience (I view the WiMaz deployments as patchy mid-band experiences – will be hard to move me off of that POV). I am not selling what LTE portends – this is a comparison with in-flight 3G deployments.

    I think this should be a component of a larger mobile play for Sprint (i.e., incorporated in a hybrid data plan mixing 3G and WiMax for a great composite experience). Unfortunately, now that xohm is a standalone business run by Clearwire, this is much harder to pull off.

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  7. @Andreas, there was a test run on the WiMax network in B-More.

    The author stated that he was very impressed with latency.

    I don’t want to step on any toes of this site so I won’t post the link but you can easily find it by googling “sprint” then clicking on news.

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  8. [...] Baltimore, Md., and Portland, Ore., will be the first cities to go online, with no mention of Chicago and Dallas which were to go live under Sprint’s Xohm brand soon. [...]

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