CES: WiMAX is bigger than Xohm

Although the main point of a panel discussion yesterday at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas was to provide the audience with an update on Sprint Nextel's Xohm WiMAX network, the conversation quickly veered to the uncertainty of Sprint's commitment to Xohm. When asked about the departure of former CEO Gary Forsee and the uncertainty of new-CEO Dan Hesse's views on Sprint's Xohm network, Barry West, president of Sprint's Xohm Business Unit, would only say that Xohm is proceeding on schedule and that Sprint is currently in its budget process and will provide further guidance later in the quarter. However, West added that the WiMAX ecosystem has progressed to a point where it is now beyond Xohm, meaning that he doesn't believe the fate of WiMAX rests on Xohm's future.

That viewpoint was backed by other panelists including Motorola, which is a Xohm vendor partner. "We are out to globalize the technology. Xohm is important to help launch WiMAX but that's not where it ends," said Fred Wright, senior vice president, cellular networks & WiMAX at Motorola.

West did, however, hint at how Sprint is planning to charge consumers for access to the Xohm network. He said that the key is to treat the person as a customer, not the device. "We may charge you for multiple devices but not linear. We may reach a point where you have a certain number of devices and we won't charge you more. We will see service rates that are similar to what people are paying for Internet access now," West said. -Sue  

P.S. In other Xohm news, ThinkEquity's Robert Ferguson believes that Sprint will renew its relationship with Clearwire during this quarter. Ferguson says that yesterday's announcement by Sprint of its relationships with Amdocs, SwapDrive and others reaffirms its commitment to Xohm. He believes that the advantages to the Clearwire deal are too great to pass up.