Wi-Fi

Mobile WiMax arrives in the U.S., but are buyers ready for it?

Sprint and its Xohm unit have finally made WiMax a reality. Now it will be very interesting to see who buys the service.
This is a guest post from Larry Dignan. You can read the original article on Larry's blog Between the Lines on TechRepublic's sister site ZDNet.

Sprint and its Xohm unit have finally made WiMax a reality. Now it will be very interesting to see who buys the service.

In a statement (Techmeme), Xohm, soon to be a joint venture between Sprint and Clearwire, announced that its WiMax broadband service, also known as 4G, has launched in Baltimore with areas such as Boston, Chicago, Philadelphia, Dallas and Washington DC en route. While the companies call the launch "historic" the timing is a bit tricky. The economy stinks; consumers are reeling and it's unclear whether they will leave their existing providers and buy WiMax enabled devices.

The promise is that WiMax will extend beyond mobile access and allow folks to use it as their sole broadband option. Xohm's service delivers download speeds of 2 Mbps to 4 Mbps and may be coming to a city near you (at least if you're an East Coast person).

xohmchart.png

The rub: WiMax devices aren't exactly everywhere. Xohm is launching in Baltimore, which isn't a tech haven like the Bay Area, and it's unclear that consumers are in any mood to ditch their triple plays (Internet, phone, TV) to give a fledgling service a spin.

Some of those concerns are reflected in Xohm's pricing. Consider:

  • Xohm has no long-term contracts and will sell you access monthly at home ($25) and mobile ($30) or by the day ($10);
  • One charge works on multiple devices;
  • Xohm is ditching the walled garden approach deployed by Verizon Wireless and AT&T.

Simply put, Xohm really wants you to try WiMax. But I'd expect a slow rollout due to the lack of WiMax enabled devices (and some subsidies would help too). Xohm has Samsung Express air cards and modems, but USB modems, notebook PCs and wireless devices won’t surface until later in the year. Rest assured that Intel will push devices out the door. Sprint is chipping in dual-mode 3G/4G handsets.

But the WiMax rollout is really wait and see at the moment. The case for WiMax is there. The timing, however, could be off.

8 comments
JohnMcGrew
JohnMcGrew

For many regions, WiMax will be the magical 3rd competitor in the broadband marketplace. At $25/month, it's half the price I'm paying for my current provider. Also, you have to remember that there are still millions of people out there that are still not well served by broadband, because of low population densisty that makes hard-wired options unattractive or technically not possible for the providers. This will definitely be their choice. And I also have to disagree with your comments regarding market timing. At a time when people are looking for ways to cut back on spending, saving $300/year looks smart, even if they have to buy another $150 in hardware to do it. Also, I think it's smart that they DO NOT subsidize the hardware, as that is one of the mires that the cell industry is stuck in. I'd much rather pay more up front and then have the cheaper monthly charge than "subsidize" hardware forever.

w2ktechman
w2ktechman

I am currently paying $65/month for service, just Internet. Then there is the cell phone and viop phone, etc. dropping to $25/month seems very attractive. As for business, likely it will not catch on quickly until a few things are addressed. Many business people use the 3G cards for travel/off-site. Until there is better coverage for it, there will likely be a low implementation. However, Sprint does have 3G, so, if they substitute moving to the 3G while out of a 4G area, this may help adopt it. Right now though, there is little incentive for most companies to move. In another year, as the service expands, this may just take off.

hm2johnson
hm2johnson

As a former Sprint employee still working at sprint, and the rumors of outsourcing, which has already happened to me, I say this product will work if the Management at Sprint do the right things. Hopefully they can get it together.

john3347
john3347

I currently have cable ISP at $40-something/mo. and Verizon aircard mobile service at $60/mo. (discounted to $60/mo. when on the same account as my cell phone service) If I could swap this combination for a combination 3G/4G that would give me service at home and on the road and would allow networking on my home network, etc. for $25/mo., I would jump for it like a jackrabbit; - - If it actually delivered as promised. This last point is where I would have to be convinced first.

k-mac
k-mac

I am posthing this via my 7mbps cell connection here in Japan. I really can't for the live of me understand why N.A is still lagging so far behind Asia and Japan specifically. On a side note KDDI(teleco) here in Japan is releasing 1gbps(1000mbps) fibre to your house as of tomorrow for $50(US) a month. Its time for N.A providers to ante up. It's ridiculous that they can provide service up to 1000x better than N.A ISP's for less price.

JohnMcGrew
JohnMcGrew

Geographic size and population density. Japan has 339 people per sq/km vs 31 for the US. It takes far more infastructure per customer to reach American broadband consumers that it does Japanese consumers.

s31064
s31064

That's what happens when you look at aggregate numbers for support; you wind up looking somewhat foolish. There may be 31 people per sq/km nationwide, but the major markets are just a little beyond that. According to the 2007 census, there are 27,267/km? in NYC. I think they might be able to afford the infrastructure in areas with that kind of density. It's a matter of the public telling the money men to get off their butts and open their wallets. The American corporate culture is driven by greed, not by pride, as it is in countries like Japan.