From Closed to Open: Sprint Changes its xOHM Tune

[qi:045] Under siege from Wall Street investors, and facing competition from other potential wireless networks (700 MHz), Sprint Nextel (S) has a new-found appreciation for the need for openness. And its executives are taking every opportunity to extoll the virtues of open networks, especially xOHM.

Rick Robinson, VP of products and services of xOhm, told attendees of the Play conference in Berkeley, Calif., that xOhm will tear down the walled gardens and do away with restricted access to the mobile Internet. “Xohm will tear down this wall. We will provide complete access to Internet from a WiMax enabled device,” he said.

Speaking at the CTIA conference in San Francisco last week, xOHM senior vice president, Atish Gude, highlighted the fact that operators deliver a smart network which allows open access to applications. Sprint provides the network elements — location, presence, security, quality of service, and bandwidth. The rest of the magic comes from device companies and app makers.

Now the same Mr. Gude, speaking at another conference back in January 2007, said, “Do you start with an open model, or start with a closed model and move to an open model?” He felt starting with a closed network might be a good way to get started.

A little competitive threat from the 700 MHz-based networks and barracking by Wall Street might have helped tilt the balance in favor of “more openness.” Not that there is anything wrong with being “open.”

The current problems at Sprint have nothing to do with their WiMAX plans, but instead are a result of a botched merger with Nextel and disparate and incompatible networking technologies. Sprint is not out of the woods, but if it can quickly showcase the promise of xOHM, it could buy itself time.