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Summary:

If you didn’t know that Sprint’s XOHM service was WiMAX, you’re probably in the majority. That’s why Sprint officials kept referring to it as "a hotspot as big as a city" at the Baltimore launch event in October. Unfortunately, that’s too long for a marketable mobile […]

ClearwirelogoIf you didn’t know that Sprint’s XOHM service was WiMAX, you’re probably in the majority. That’s why Sprint officials kept referring to it as "a hotspot as big as a city" at the Baltimore launch event in October. Unfortunately, that’s too long for a marketable mobile service offering’s name so clearly the wireless technology needs a new name. Hey, that’s it: Clear!

That’s the deal and although it still doesn’t describe the service in my book, it does work on another level now that Sprint has sold its WiMAX airwaves to Clearwire. The company announced the closing of various prior deals including a $3.2 billion investment from Comcast, Intel, Time Warner Cable, Google and Bright House Networks. Stacey Higginbotham offers additional clarity to the future of nationwide WiMAX with these tidbits along with my thoughts:

  • The Clear network will capable of upgrades to LTE. Hmm… you could give bonus points for strategic planning ahead, but does it show a lack of confidence in WiMAX in a nod to the "other" 4G standard that’s coming? AT&T and Verizon Wireless have already committed to LTE.
  • Clear service is expected to offer average downloads of 2Mbps to 4Mbps, with peak speeds faster. That’s in line with what I saw in Baltimore at the launch event, but in my opinion, it’s not dramatic enough to sacrifice the very limited geographic availability for my usage.
  • Clearwire will work with Sprint to leverage Sprint’s current 3G service with support for dual-mode 3G / WiMAX hardware. This should help customers in existing Sprint data coverage areas if they know that their location will be getting WiMAX from Clear in the short-term future.
  • By the middle part of 2009, we’ll move beyond USB and ExpressCard  WiMAX solutions for notebooks and see more mobile internet devices, MP3 players and other devices. My gut says that even at that point, you’re looking at devices that can only connect to WiMAX in a dozen or so cities.

Whatever you call the network, Clearwire has to get those investment dollars put to work right away for network expansion since a service is only good if it’s readily available for use. At that moment HSDPA, EV-DO, and even WiFi to some extent, clearly fit that bill.

  1. Well thanks to the JKOTR post (referencing Dave Zatz blog post) I went ahead and jumped on board. The price was right and my house is right on a green “Island” (if you look at coverage Map from XOHM you will get the Island humor. The speeds are killer but the system in the Maryland Suburbs of DC are just not ready. When I am out and about the drops are way too many. But when you get connected, I do average 5000 kbps UP and 1000 kbps down. For $30 a month for first 6 months and $45 after, it will work for me. I do have TMO and VERIZON and SPRINT connectivity as backups so I can risk it. For someone who is dependant on one service and not a multiple device / service geek, Ron says it is not close to ready yet.

    NOTE: This system is NOT officially launched in DC so this has to be taken into account. But for a system rumored strongly to launch in November, it cannot be close to launch yet based on my experiences and those from others I have read who basically say the same.

    In summation, here is my thoughts. If you are happy sitting down in a known XOHM coverage spot and getting connected and getting some killer speeds, then fine. But if you desire to be mobile and it is mission critical to connect where you are and when you want, EVDO A on VZW or SPRINT (cant say TMO yet) is still the clear cut choice from what I am seeing.

    Coverage Tidbit: For Suburban MD, Montgomery County, MD Readers I can tell you this, I can get service in Bethesda, Rockville, Gaithersburg. (some of Germantown but very little). The XOHM website does have the Washington DC Coverage to date available so you can check the places you want to see. Go to: http://www.xohm.com/apps/coverage-tracker/

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  2. Great update on coverage and performance Ron, thanks! I like the solution that WiMAX provides, but my issue is that there are perfectly viable alternatives with vastly larger footprints available. My fear is that by the time WiMAX is truly nationwide, LTE will already have legs. We’ll have to wait and see.

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  3. Thanks Kevin, I will do my best to keep you guys in the know. Your points are the same as many. It will be interesting to see what finally happens. I read an article today that says LTE will not possibly be deployed until 2012. In that same article it says that XOHM/ Clearwire will need 2 years to get WiMAX on every tower that they need. And then the quote was “And two years in this business is a lifetime”.

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  4. I think the key for making this work sooner rather than later are dual-mode cards that also work off of Sprints EVDO network as was mentioned. They also need to get a little more creative with the rate plans than they are currently offering for data.

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