Sprint Launches WiMax Sites

Despite recent troubles, Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S) has hit its target of a soft launch for its XOHM WiMax network in several cities in the U.S. this week. (See Sprint's Ready to XOHM Out.)

The soft launch has started with Baltimore, Chicago, and Washington, D.C. and the company will be running the service using several hundred of its own employees by Christmas. Phase II of the soft launch, coming in the first quarter of 2008, will bring in technology suppliers and "friendly customers," according to Sprint spokesman John Polivka.

"We're beyond the testing phase," stresses Polivka, adding that the carrier wants "real-world experience" to ensure the best service possible when the nationwide network is launched in the second quarter of 2008. He claims that the initial response from the Sprint employees testing the service has been "very favorable… beyond our expectations."

To get the ball rolling on the user side of the network, Sprint is providing a WiMax modem and a PC card. Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT), Nokia Corp. (NYSE: NOK), and others say they will have WiMax cellphones in 2008; other technology suppliers that are working with the carrier include Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. (Korea: SEC) and Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC). (See The $1500 WiMax Handset?)

Polivka didn't have many hard numbers on network performance yet. The carrier has demonstrated streaming video over WiMax at 1 Mbit/s in the past, while Motorola has shown that it can support basestation handoffs at speeds up to 50 mph. (See CES: Sprint Streams WiMax.)

Of course, many have questioned whether Sprint would carry through with its WiMax plans after shareholder disquiet over the costs of deploying the network. Those concerns led to the departure of CEO Gary Forsee and the dissolution of the Sprint-Clearwire LLC (Nasdaq: CLWR) WiMax alliance. (See Sprint Reconsiders WiMax Plans.)

None of that has derailed a second-quarter launch for the XOHM service, Polivka tells Unstrung. — Dan Jones, Site Editor, Unstrung

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