Xohm Steals the Spotlight

Xohm Steals the Spotlight
At Sprint's Technology Summit yesterday, the carrier provided status reports on several technology initiatives including backhaul, the Pivot cable joint venture and push-to-talk. But if you read yesterday's news reports from the summit you probably thought the two-hour event was entirely focused on Xohm, Sprint's new name for its WiMAX network and service. Xohm is clearly the headline-grabber for a number of reasons. It's using a new technology. It's being deployed in a new spectrum band--the 2.5 MHz band. And most importantly, it's introducing a game-changing business model for licensed wireless services.

Critics and competitors say Sprint is taking some risks with its open access model. The company says it will let any WiMAX-certified device on the network (no need for Sprint to certify them) and the company envisions embedded WiMAX chips being included in all types of devices--cars, laptops, cameras, etc. When people turn on their WiMAX-capable devices, they will be directed to Sprint's network. They won't have to be "activated" by the Sprint network but will be able to "self-activate" in a fashion similar to how you can get WiFi access when you turn on a WiFi embedded laptop. Plus Sprint will have lots of different package options.

In fact, it's because of this new model that Barry West, chief technology officer and president of Sprint's 4G Mobile Broadband Unit, says the company has spent so much time and effort on the back office system to make sure that rogue devices will not be allowed access. "The back office is a unique challenge. It's a new model," West says.

West clearly is passionate about WiMAX and he's ready to defend his technology choice. He claims critics and competitors are in "WiMAX denial" and he says that WiMAX is clearly winning the race with more than 350 WiMAX trials in place worldwide.

West and the other Sprint executives also touted the company's agreement with Clearwire, in which the two firms have decided to jointly construct and sell their WiMAX services. Chairman and CEO Gary Forsee said that the Clearwire deal will bring greater efficiency and help lower network development and operating costs.

We'll be discussing the pros and cons of the Clearwire/Sprint deal during a Webinar I'm moderating on Wednesday, Aug. 22 at 2 PM EST. My guests, Peter Jarich of Current Analysis, Mo Shakouri of the WiMAX Forum and Arthur Giftakis of Towerstream, will talk about the pros and cons of this alliance and the economies of scale that this reciprocal relationship will provide to the WiMAX ecosystem. To register, click on this link. -Sue

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