XOHM has a Clear identity crisis, even with investment

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.

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