Music in the Air for Sprint's WiMax?
A case in point is Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S)'s initial XOHM WiMax deployments, which are now expected to launch in Baltimore in September, followed by Chicago and Washington late this year. (See Sprint & Samsung: 'WiMax Is Ready' and Sprint: More on B'More.) The operator has already made it clear that it will allow an array of compatible devices onto the network and plans to charge for options like "day passes" as well as the more standard monthly billing. (See Sprint's WiMax Laundry List.)
This is where Mformation Technologies Inc. comes in. The company, which offers mobile device management software, is working with Sprint to enable the discovery, certification, and management of new devices on the WiMax network.
Initially, mFormation's platform will be handling WiMax modems and cards, laptops, and the occasional Internet tablet. But mFormation is looking at managing "MP3 players and the like" as part of the coming wave of WiMax devices, says Rob Dalgety, the company's marketing director.
These gadgets are unlikely to hit before 2009 as Sprint's Xohm offerings become part of the "new" Clearwire LLC (Nasdaq: CLWR) but could offer a glimpse into how carriers plan to make more money from mobile data.
Sprint has never made a secret of its desire to bring more consumer electronics devices onto the network. (See Clearwire: In Depth With Barry West.) "They're talking about a broad ecosystem of devices," Dalgety says.
Devices like the Amazon.com Inc. (Nasdaq: AMZN) Kindle already foreshadow some potential new service trends. (See Book to the Future and WiMax Folks: Open Your Eyes .) The $400 e-book reader uses Sprint's EV-DO network; users don't get charged for the data connection itself but pay $10 upfront to download the latest bestsellers. Meanwhile, Verizon Wireless has just started to offer a $15 a month service that lets 3G users download unlimited amounts of music over Rhapsody Networks to their phones. These kinds of services are likely to become more prevalent as faster 3G networks are switched on and as WiMax and LTE become more widely available.
For mFormation, the move to mobile WiMax, and eventually to 4G services, has spurred some tweaks to its device management platform. The firm cannot use the traditional methods of finding and managing new handsets on a network in an all-IP environment, Dalgety notes.
"We’re having to work a lot more with MAC addresses and IP system addresses," he says. The software identifies the type of device on the network, then dives into the carrier's authentication, authorization, and accounting (AAA) server to determine if it is dealing with a new user or a regular customer. It then sets up the device on the network based on that info.
"We had to create a bunch of different calls and processes to work with IP," explains Dalgety. This work includes reusing the Open Mobile Alliance (OMA) 's device management protocol for WiMax.
Dalegty says that mFormation has been talking to Sprint about WiMax for 18 months. Software updates, a year in the making so far, will be ready for Sprint's planned network launch in September. "We’re effectively launched in the network now," he tells Unstrung.
— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Unstrung