Sprint still plugging along with WiMAX

2007 saw WiMAX in the spotlight for the majority of the year until November, when Verizon Wireless announced its intention to move to Long Term Evolution (LTE) as its 4G strategy. This happened amid the uncertainty surrounding Sprint's WiMAX business, whether Sprint will spin the business off or severely curtail its nationwide rollout.

One thing is for sure, WiMAX's chief evangelist, Barry West, head of Sprint's WiMAX initiative, is eerily quiet these days. This summer he banged the drum around open access and the fact that WiMAX will usher in a new paradigm shift for the wireless industry. But those working with Sprint say West and team are moving at full speed despite the uncertainty surrounding the business.

"Sprint is trying to find a way to appear to make concessions," said a source from one of Sprint's technology partners. "The Xohm team doesn't think they can be successful with a three-market launch. It's a waste of money and effort if that is all they are going to do."

Sprint plans to soft-launch three markets by the end of the year: Chicago, Baltimore and Washington, D.C. What's unclear is how aggressive the operator will be rolling out markets in 2008.

Meanwhile, LTE is gaining steam, thanks in part to Sprint's evangelizing this its innovative open access business model this year. Verizon Wireless can now claim the same thing with its recently announced open-access policy and LTE, although the standard isn't completed and Verizon Wireless hasn't secured additional spectrum yet. 

The question is: Which way will the hype go in 2008? In favor of WiMAX or LTE? But don't be surprised with what Sprint does next year in light of the struggles the company is facing. Barry West may once again light up the headlines.--Lynnette