Sprint XOHM WiMAX launch: SlashGear goes to Baltimore

Sprint has officially announced its new 4G XOHM WiMAX high-speed WWAN service operating in Baltimore, and with it several new WiMAX-enabled notebooks from Acer, ASUS, Lenovo, Toshiba.  The PCs will use Intel's combined WiMAX/WiFi module, an optional feature for Intel Centrino 2-based laptops, and which Dell, Panasonic, Samsung and Sony have all promised will be integrated in select notebooks of their own in 2009. Alternatively a USB WiMAX dongle, made by ZTE, can be used to add WiMAX to other devices; Nokia's N810 WiMAX Edition Internet Tablet will also go on sale later this month.


Another device is the ZTE MAX-206m2 desktop modem/router, which offers both WiMAX modem and gateway functionality.  WiMAX offers average downlink speeds of 2-4 Mbps and uplink rate of 1-2 Mbps.  XOHM will next roll out in Chicago, DC, Dallas, Fort Worth, Providence, Boston and Philadelphia over the coming months.

Speed tests in Baltimore last week found that WiMAX managed download speeds roughly double that of Verizon's EV-DO, while upload speeds were over four-times higher.  As for why Baltimore was picked – something several people have asked us – Sprint are saying that it's a combination of it being a challenging environment (with lots of water and different types of market), it being "an all American city" and, frankly, because it was ready to switch on there.

SlashGear is at the WiMAX launch event in Baltimore today, and will be bringing you all the news regarding the US' first high-speed 4G network.   We'll also have live video periodically through the day, which you can find at Vincent's Qik channel: http://qik.com/android

Press Release:

Xohm, Intel and WiMAX Partners celebrate New 4G broadband era In Baltimore

· 4G mobile service provides XOHM customers a city-sized hotspot

· New Intel-based notebooks, other WiMAX-ready devices on roadmap

· XOHM retail push includes Web, area Mall kiosks and select Best Buy stores

· Symbolic "wire-cutting" event signifies Internet freedom and mobility

Baltimore – Oct. 8, 2008 – Catalysts of a new 4G wireless broadband era gathered today in Baltimore as Sprint (NYSE: S), Intel® and their WiMAX ecosystem partners celebrated the recent launch of XOHMTM mobile 4G service, and announced new access devices and retail strategies at an Inner Harbor event. The occasion marked a business model transformation for the wireless industry and innovation in the way mobile services are accessed and enjoyed.

XOHM, Sprint's 4G business unit, is building the fastest most capable mobile broadband network available in the U.S. as compared to other national wireless carriers. "Customers looking for true mobile broadband speed at affordable prices and the Open Internet will find that in this new service," said Dan Hesse, Sprint CEO.

XOHM and its WiMAX ecosystem will provide customers with new wireless data and web services by incorporating WiMAX capabilities in consumer electronic devices and unleashing the Internet from wires and place-based communications. "4G has rapidly gone from a mobility vision to service reality with the launch of XOHM service in Baltimore," said Barry West, XOHM president. "Nothing has ignited the imagination of a cross section of industries and the partnership of an ecosystem the way WiMAX technology has. We are delighted with the reception we have received."

"Access to the Internet with its rich multimedia and social media applications has become an essential and entertaining part of our everyday lives, and this network will ultimately redefine where, when and how people enjoy that mobile experience" said Sean Maloney, executive vice president and chief sales and marketing officer of Intel Corporation. "This is an historic milestone for the U.S. and residents of Baltimore. We can now set our sights on ensuring a smooth city-by-city build out of WiMAX 4G and relish in what will be an incredible amount of Internet-related innovation and greater consumer freedom from wires and what has been constricted and localized hot spots."

WiMAX product availability

A hallmark of the XOHM ecosystem is an "embedded chipset" model in which manufacturers include WiMAX access within various computing, portable multimedia and Internet devices to make access more pervasive and to give customers more device choices. Intel is now shipping its first-ever combined WiMAX/Wi-Fi module, formerly code-named "Echo Peak," as part of the Intel WiMAX/Wi-Fi Link 5050 Series that is an optional feature for Intel Centrino 2-based laptops. Several leading PC OEMs have announced plans to deliver Intel® Centrino® 2-based notebooks featuring the Intel Core™2 processor with WiMAX including Acer, Asus, Lenovo and Toshiba. Beginning today WiMAX-based Intel notebooks can be found online at Amazon.com and NewEgg.com. Dell, Panasonic, Samsung and Sony also plan to support WiMAX in their laptops starting in 2009.

XOHM service was launched in September in Baltimore with a modem, an Express aircard and attractive device and service offers. In October a XOHM USB dongle by ZTE will become available. Later this month, Nokia will sell the new pocket size Nokia N810 Internet tablet WiMAX edition, with widescreen display and QWERTY keyboard, at select independent retailers in Baltimore as well as online at www.nokiausa.com.

Sprint will be the first and only wireless carrier to launch a dual-mode 3G – 4G access device expected later in the fourth quarter. This device will extend Sprint's mobile broadband leadership by offering the power of the NOW network — the largest 3G data network in the U.S. — with the fastest data speeds among all national carriers available on this new 4G network in Baltimore and in future markets.

XOHM is relying on a new distribution strategy that follows a consumer electronics model, allowing customers to buy devices independent of service. XOHM products will be initially available at six select Best Buy locations in the Baltimore market. XOHM sales kiosks are open in several Baltimore-area shopping malls. The retail strategy involves both direct and indirect channels, local independent retailers, door-to-door, web and telesales. XOHM customers will self-activate their devices from retail channels, be able to bundle multiple devices under one account and in some cases with one rate plan, have daily and monthly service plans without traditional long-term contracts and access enhanced location-based and other services through a XOHM web portal. Information, including the nearest XOHM sales outlet, can be found at www.xohm.com

Cord-cutting breaks with tradition

"Our lives extend well beyond the confines of home and office, and so should the Internet upon which we depend, said Barry West. "Access to it in new ways and more places will enhance the quality of digital life." Signifying new Internet freedom, a symbolic 'Ethernet cord-cutting' occurred with gathered XOHM WiMAX partners Intel, Motorola, Nokia, Nokia Siemens Networks, Samsung, ZTE and ZyXEL, government officials and guests, indicative of the release of devices from wire-line ties that restrict mobility and innovation. Baltimore event guests had first hand experience with XOHM WiMAX devices in various mobile settings including harbor water taxis.

For Intel, the creation of a ground-up, mobile-customized wireless network plays a key role in the company's effort to match broadband and Internet speed and usage with the company's powerful yet energy-efficient line of Intel Core processors and Intel Centrino 2 mobile technology for laptops. WiMAX is also a major component in Intel's goal to shift the industry and consumers to a "mobile Internet." In addition to battery-saving new processors for laptop PCs, over the past six months, the company has introduced new chips for mobile Internet devices, simple netbooks, quad-core products and ultra slim and light laptops that all work best on a high-speed, wireless broadband network.

As announced earlier this year, Sprint expects to complete the anticipated combination of its XOHM WiMAX business assets with Clearwire to form a new company in the fourth quarter. This new company, to be called Clearwire, will continue to expedite the deployment of a nationwide mobile WiMAX network. Following the transaction, Sprint will be the only national wireless carrier to sell 4G services through an MVNO structure with the new Clearwire.