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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.