What makes him so powerful: Long before Sprint merged with Nextel and way before the mobile WiMAX vs. LTE debate started, Barry West, then CTO of Nextel, had a vision. He wanted to offer consumers broadband data at the low cost of 1 Gb of data per user per month for $20 per month or less. West first started talking about this vision in 2004 right after Nextel purchased the wireless broadband MMDS (multichannel multipoint distribution services) spectrum assets from WorldCom for $144 million and from Nucentrix Broadband Networks for $51 million and he has not wavered since. West and his team tested a variety of technologies in hopes of finding one that fit his requirements. The winner, of course, was mobile WiMAX.
But West is no stranger to championing technologies long before there are believers. He was instrumental in creating iDEN, the push-to-talk technology platform that Nextel made a success with enterprises and public safety prior to the merger with Sprint. He also spent more than 35 years working for British Telecom and oversaw the rollout of a GSM in the U.K.
West has been a tireless champion of WiMAX and he has faced some formidable challenges. When Sprint CEO Gary Forsee resigned in 2007, Sprint reportedly had lots of pressure from investors to halt or slow its $5 billion WiMAX strategy. Sprint also had a false start with Clearwire, announcing in July 2007 that Sprint and Clearwire would jointly construct their WiMAX networks and eventually sell the services under one brand. That short-lived venture fell apart in November 2007 only to re-emerge in May 2008 as a totally new deal. Called the "new Clearwire" Sprint and Clearwire will combine their WiMAX businesses and create a new company that will include a $3.2 billion investment from Intel, Google, Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Bright House Networks and Trilogy Equity Partners. The deal is set to close by year-end.
In the meantime, West is basking in the glory of having the first Xohm WiMAX market commercially deployed. Earlier this month West and many other early believers in WiMAX gathered in Baltimore to debut the service. Although WiMAX and the Sprint Xohm network are still in the early stages, West has proven that he has the perseverance and persistence to not only turn a vision into reality, but also to convince some powerful players to join him on his quest.