A Giant Leap Towards 4G

5:30 PM -- I think there's one potential sticking point for the trio of mobile WiMax vendors that Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S) has gathered to support its mobile WiMax push. (See Sprint Goes WiMax.) None of the vendors -- Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC), Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT), and Samsung Corp. -- have publicly committed to using a specific mobile WiMax profile for the so-called "4G" network.

Why does that matter? Well, although mobile WiMax tends to be presented as a monolithic standard, there are actually a number of variations within the specification. You can read all the gory details here.

The vendors are apparently considering supporting profile A, B, or C. The final decision on which one is the right one, however, apparently hasn't yet been made.

I asked at today's press conference if this meant that different vendors could potentially end up supporting different variants of the technology. "When we launch our services each of our vendors will be on the same profile ... harmonizing our equipment between all of the vendors is a top priority," Sprint Nextel CTO Barry West replied.

This all sounds simple enough, but as someone who has reported on the WiMax standards process for a couple of years now I know that it ain't necessarily so. It would be interesting to be a fly-on-the-wall at those particular discussions.

I suggest that any users interested in what it will really take for Sprint Nextel to get mobile WiMax in place keep an eye out for agreements between vendors on using a specific profile. The carrier has made a giant leap towards a 4G future today, but the small steps still needed could be the most devilish.

— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Unstrung

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