Sprint’s Xohm Network is Only Half Open

Today marks the formal launch of Sprint’s Xohm network, and celebrants are gathered in Baltimore to show off their new WiMAX-enabled gadgets. But after chatting with an executive from Lenovo, I wonder just how open Sprint’s network will be, and how that lack of true openness might slow the adoption of WiMAX.

Lenovo is on hand showing of its five laptops designed for Sprint’s WiMAX network, including the super-sleek x300 that competes with the MacBook Air. David Critchley, worldwide segment manager with Lenovo, said the x300 was supposed to launch last spring with WiMAX inside, but Sprint’s delays nixed that plan. Critchley expected that Lenovo would have the most WiMAX enabled products ready to launch today, in part because it had been preparing for WiMAX for so long, enabling it to get hardware ready in time for testing. He called Sprint’s testing pipeline “narrow,” and expected others to only have one or two devices ready for launch. Read More about Sprint’s Xohm Network is Only Half Open

Xohm WiMAX Launches: Limited Service, No Bandwidth Caps

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. Read More about Xohm WiMAX Launches: Limited Service, No Bandwidth Caps

Sprint’s Xohm Adds Location to WiMAX

Despite its delays launching its Xohm 4G mobile WiMAX network, Sprint has not been idle. The carrier said this morning it would work with a variety of businesses to bring location-based services to the Xohm network when it launches in September. It sounds neat, and the partners listed below could make for a good location-based services experience, but right now mobile WiMAX is a data card strategy without handsets. [digg=http://digg.com/gadgets/Sprint_brings_location_based_services_to_the_Xohm_network]

That makes location more of gimmicky feature for browsing on your laptop than the awesome-to-have feature on your mobile phone. However, it’s well in line with recent attempts to add location to browsing through Yahoo’s Fire Eagle platform, or older attempts with the use of Skyhook’s Loki software. If Sprint’s open network strategy for Xohm attracts other devices such as personal navigation systems, this could become a more interesting offering, and lead to products as cool as the Dash Express.These features will carry over once the joint venture between Sprint and Clearwire for nationwide WiMAX gets going at the end of the year. Below the fold are the names of companies adding location to the Xohm network. Read More about Sprint’s Xohm Adds Location to WiMAX

Sprint Bets Big on Super-fast Broadband

On the Internet, you can never be too fast or carry too much data, which is why Sprint is crowing about its plan to convert its core network to deliver data at 40 Gbps using the 40 Gigabit Ethernet technologies. The carrier will use Cisco and Ciena gear to deliver 40 Gig E Gbps over its existing fiber network worldwide. To help put the speeds in context, a 40 Gig E backbone will be able to carry 3.2 terabits of data per second. That’s a lot of cloud services or HD video via iTunes, but Internet consumers are demanding it. And with the speed which new services, including video and 3G wireless, are growing, we need the speed.

Sprint has long been eager to experiment with new technologies, building out the first fiber network back in the 80s and 90s. In 1999 –well before convergence was all the rage — it launched a converged voice and data service built on a packet-based network dubbed “ION.” However, those experiments have not always translated directly into dollars. Sprint spent more than $2 billion on ION before killing it three years after its launch.

More recently, Sprint has bet on WiMAX, but its beleaguered Xohm network has been plagued by delays. Sprint has had to turn to rival Clearwire in order to bring the 4G service nationwide. So I applaud Sprint for investing in 40 GigE faster broadband and only hope it can find some return.

(We will update the story after talking to Cisco and Sprint.)

Sprint’s Xohm and Backhaul Bottleneck

Sprint is blaming a puny backhaul network and a paucity of backend bandwidth for some of the delays with its cursed, WiMAX technology-based Xohm network, which will offer broadband speeds over wireless when it goes live later this year. They might not be alone, as carriers worldwide would have to deal with the problem of a T-1-based backhaul network. AT&T and Verizon say they’ll be fine, that they’ll have ample capacity, but then they aren’t likely to have a nationwide 4G network for some time, so who knows.

A few weeks ago, after having a conversation with John Roese, chief technology officer of Nortel, about 4G Wireless, I came away with the conclusion that as 4G wireless broadband spreads, the biggest bottleneck — and thus the biggest opportunity — will be backhaul. Roese pointed out that bandwidth demand per base station will be closer to 2 Gigabits/second. The solution, experts say, is running fiber to as many base stations as possible.

It’s a Wrap: CTIA Review

Now that the haze of exhaustion has worn off, I’m reviewing my notes from CTIA. Our cheat sheet was spot on — with the exception of an Android phone, that is. The same prototypes were available that folks saw in February at the Mobile World Congress show in Barcelona, but there was no actual handset there with which to muck around.

Another disappointment was Sprint’s delay of the launch of Xohm until later this summer. Yet even despite the sense that LTE has gained the upper hand with existing carriers, plenty of vendors were showing WiMAX products. But really, the real news at CTIA this year was around the services that can be delivered over a mobile phone, not the phones or the networks on which those services will be accessed.

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WiMAX: Sprint, Clearwire Mulling the Future, Maybe Together

wimaxsprintclearwire.gifSprint Nextel (S) and Clearwire (CLWR), two companies that are betting the farm on building out WiMAX networks, are getting no love from Wall Street analysts. Sprint just reported a disastrous quarter, and the continuing decline in revenues and subscribers might result in lower spending on its WiMAX efforts. Similarly, Clearwire is not growing fast enough to satisfy investors.

Pali Research analyst Walter Piecyk downgraded the Clearwire stock to sell, saying the recently launched PC Card is not selling as well as had been expected. He cites two reasons for the slow sales: high price point vs. CDMA PC cards, and lack of awareness. Piecyk is very concerned that the cost of deployment of WiMAX is going to be higher than expected; he thinks cap-ex could top a billion dollars in 2008.

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