updated 08:20 am EDT, Mon September 29, 2008
Sprint Xohm Goes Live
Sprint today marked the official debut of Xohm, the first WiMAX service available from a major provider in the US and the first 4G-level service from a cellular carrier. The 2.5GHz service, launching first in Baltimore, is likened to a traditional Internet provider and provides roughly DSL-quality broadband wherever the network is available: Sprint estimates real-world downloads of between 2Mbps and 4Mbps depending on distance and signal strength. The speed allows full-quality streaming video and other services that are largely impractical over 3G.
The company emphasizes a fundamentally different business model than both its own cellular service and for traditional Internet providers. While Xohm is tied to particular devices, Sprint requires no contracts and also doesn't depend on a month-to-month service. Although a monthly plan is an option, customers can also pay $10 for a day pass that lets a device get unlimited access for a business trip or vacation. No devices are locked to the network and none require special permission to run.
Regular service is also potentially less expensive than most Internet service and depends on usage patterns. A $25 home plan is based on a fixed position and intended for a ZyXEL Xohm router ($80) that shares the WiMAX link with other computers over Wi-Fi; a $30 plan allows one mobile device, such as a Samsung ExpressCard ($60), ZTE USB modem (unknown price) or a device with built-in WiMAX to connect anywhere Xohm coverage is available. A third $50 option supports two devices anywhere on the network.
Despite the one-city launch, Sprint expects to quickly expand to Chicago and Washington DC soon. Only the ZyXEL and Samsung devices are available from Sprint on launch, though any 2.5GHz WiMAX device should work. Nokia's N810 WiMAX Edition tablet should be available by the end of the year along with notebooks from Toshiba and other companies. A dual-mode 3G (EVDO) and WiMAX device should also be available at the same time for customers who use both Sprint and Xohm.
Longer-term expansion plans should include several New England cities as well as the Dallas/Fort Worth area. Sprint also expects to complete its partnership with Clearwire in the fall and will see the latter's existing WiMAX treated as a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO).