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Devices/smartphones

XOHM's Big WiMax Demo Day

BALTIMORE -- Well, they did it. Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S) brought analysts and reporters, along with business and technology partners, down to the Baltimore docks today to show off its first "hotspot as big as a city," created by its XOHM WiMax network.

"I had a lot of fun reading the blogs predicting we wouldn't make it," Sprint CTO Barry West told the audience here in a tent near the Bond Street Wharf. Sprint just did get its network turned on in September, meeting its own deadline after many predicted that the operator would actually launch in October. (See Sprint's 50 Buck Chuck, Chicago WiMax Is 'Imminent', and Hello XOHM.)

But today's event was a demonstration of what would run on that new network. As such, West sang the praises of the embedded model that he claims will make the cost of WiMax silicon low enough that the cost of adding it to the bill of materials for a consumer device will be neglible. "Eventually everthing will come with WiMax chips inside," he predicted.

To start down that yellow chip road, Sprint has unveiled 10 laptops with embedded WiMax from Acer Inc. , AsusTek Computer Inc. , Lenovo Group Ltd. (Hong Kong: 992), and Toshiba Corp. (Tokyo: 6502), along with a ZyXEL Communications Corp. USB modem and some PC cards. West is promising "nearly a dozen devices" on the market by the end of December with "20 additional devices going through the certification process."

The concentration on laptops is perhaps apt, since Sprint really is focusing on selling the service as a citywide "best endeavor" hotspot. So it's not meant to be as dependable as, say, a lower-speed connection on an older cellular network. "We're about three quarters of the way through the build-out program here," said West. "We're not trying to compete with cellular for now; we will eventually."

Sprint is currently continuing to build out the network in Baltimore with Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. (Korea: SEC) equipment. "We've got north of 180 basestations in place," West says.

West says Sprint chose Baltimore as its showcase city because of the lessons the XOHM engineers could learn about deploying WiMax across the U.S. in a city that has a lot of water around it and brick buildings inside it, which generally make radio signal propagation tricky. "Any RF engineer in here would tell you you're out of your tiny mind to launch here."

For now, Sprint is promising broadband speeds better than 3G in places that WiFi may not be able to reach. Unstrung saw download speeds between 1 Mbit/s and 3.5 Mbit/s in the various tests here today. A video download glitched initially in the water taxi test, but video started streaming around 15 seconds after being clicked on for the second try.

Mobile video is an important aspect for XOHM, according to Sprint CEO Dan Hesse. "Probably the real killer app is mobile video," he noted. "The mobile content industry is already bigger than Hollywood, it is already bigger than the global music industry... Imagine what they can do with 4G."

— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Unstrung

joset01 12/5/2012 | 3:29:55 PM
re: XOHM's Big WiMax Demo Day Performance really was pretty impressive, will be interesting to see how well it works when/if the network gets more loaded.

DJ
joset01 12/5/2012 | 3:29:51 PM
re: XOHM's Big WiMax Demo Day I got a brief play with one while in a water taxi, I'd say comparable with WiFi, albeit in a challenging RF environment with only a few people using the service.
kaps 12/5/2012 | 3:29:51 PM
re: XOHM's Big WiMax Demo Day Dan, any chance to test out the notebooks with wimax embedded? Think it will be interesting to see if the performance of those machines matches or beats the standard wi-fi in a coffee shop experience.
kaps 12/5/2012 | 3:29:51 PM
re: XOHM's Big WiMax Demo Day Dan, any chance to test out the notebooks with wimax embedded? Think it will be interesting to see if the performance of those machines matches or beats the standard wi-fi in a coffee shop experience.
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