Sprint Nextel's launch of the Xohm WiMAX service this week has come under unanticipated controversy for an "acceptable use" policy, written into its Xohm subscriber agreements, which gives the company the right to limit data usage. According to the policy, Xohm may use "various tools and techniques designed to limit the bandwidth available for certain bandwidth intensive applications or protocols, such as file sharing," in order to ensure a high-quality experience for the overall subscriber base.
The policy quickly gained the attention of Free Press, an advocacy group that supports net neutrality rules for broadband providers, which asserted Xohm is contradicting its open-access promise. Sprint, in turn, has asserted it will not police its users or target specific applications or services. However, it said it reserves the right to make sure no one uses a disproportionate share of the network to disadvantage other customers.
How this matter plays out remains to be seen. However, just last week, T-Mobile USA had to reverse a policy written into its data plans that would have put a 1GB limit on its UMTS/HSDPA users. Earlier this year, Verizon Wireless came under fire from the New York Attorney General for terminating customers of its EV-DO unlimited plan for using more than 5GB per month.
But surely, the Xohm controversy has created a distraction from the buzz surrounding a long-awaited Xohm debut. Sprint launched the service on Monday in Baltimore, just in time for the WiMAX World show in Chicago this week where Xohm became big news, and the operator will kick off a media blitz next week to show off Xohm devices and sustain media attention. While the service is receiving scrutiny of its geographic coverage, which is to be expected in this nascent business and with a gradual roll-out, its pricing is affordable, coming with an introductory price of $10 per day, $25 per month for home Internet services, and $30 per month for mobile use, and a special $50 price that will cover use by any two devices.
Separately, Sprint has made a vendor change in one of its forthcoming Xohm markets. Nokia Siemens Networks lost its initial contract to build the Xohm network in Dallas. Xohm has opted to use Samsung equipment, which it has on hand, rather than wait for the NSN product, which is not yet ready for commercialization.
Sprint is expected to launch Xohm next, in Chicago and Washington, D.C., by the end of the year. Its networks in Boston, Philadelphia and Dallas/Forth Worth are also under construction.
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