Xohm founders celebrate WiMAX in Baltimore

BALTIMORE--A little more than a week after the official launch of the Sprint Nextel Xohm WiMAX network in Baltimore, the top executives involved in the launch gathered here to tout Xohm's debut. Addressing a group of about 100 media and analysts, Barry West, the president of the Xohm Business Unit for Sprint Nextel, said that by December Xohm expects to have a dozen different Xohm- capable notebooks certified for the network and about 20 more devices are currently going through the certification process.

West described the history of WiMAX, why Baltimore was chosen as the first site and what the future of the network would be as it aspired to be a true 4G standard. He was joined by Sprint Nextel CEO Dan Hesse and Sean Maloney, Intel's chief marketing and sales officer, in extolling the virtues of WiMAX. 

West said Baltimore was chosen as the first launch market because it would be a challenge for the engineers because of its proximity to the water and all the brick buildings, which makes it difficult for wireless penetration.

What made Xohm and WiMAX different from other wireless broadband technologies was that it was a new business model, based on self-service on the customers' part, which he said would keep costs low. "We have introduced a completely new customer self-service model," he said, adding that Xohm disconnected buying the product with buying the service. "Someone can buy a WiMAX device and you can decide to use the service," he added.

Maloney characterized the event as a historic day and an opportunity for the U.S. to leap ahead in wireless technology and communications. "After 10 to 15 years of America tending to trail in new communications technology, this is a chance for the U.S. to lead," he said. "When you look at that network built out over the next few years, remember it started here today."

Meanwhile, Hesse said that the network would not be built out overnight, but that when it did happen it would be interoperable between 4G and 3G connection speeds. "WiMAX is not slideware. It's here, now," Hesse said. "It will take a while to have this new network ubiquitous."

He added that later this year Xohm will be launching multi-mode devices so that when WiMAX is available, consumers will get WiMAX speeds. When customers are out of WiMAX coverage, the Sprint 1xEV-DO Rev. A network will pick up the signal. Hesse also said he was confident that regulatory issues surrounding the completion of the deal that will create the Clearwire Corp. will be finalized before the end of the year. 

West and Maloney also responded to WiMAX critics who have said it is a model doomed to failure. "Part of the badmouthing is, what do your competitors answer with? Nothing," West said. "There is nothing that they can come out in two years," he added, referring to LTE technology. "And then there's the question of whether they have the spectrum to do this."

Maloney said he saw the same kind of reaction to WiFi for two or three years. "Generally it's people who feel threatened by it," he said. "The reality is WiMAX is here now. The performance on it is stunning. The devices will be stunning."

To underscore these points, West gathered all of the principle players for Xohm on stage, took out a large wire-cutter and cut a long, blue wire down the middle.

Click here to see photos from the event...

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