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Sprint's WiMAX service official in April

updated 11:10 am EST, Wed January 9, 2008

Sprint Xohm in April

The upcoming Xohm WiMAX Internet service from Sprint now has a more firm release window and a uniquely flexible rate structure, the carrier has said at the Consumer Electronics Show. Sprint's fourth-generation (4G) wide-area broadband has been in soft-launch mode for Baltimore, Chicago, and Washington, DC since December but will be ready for a formal release by late April; whether or not the service will also be available in other areas is unclear, though the company is already expanding into the outer reaches of these areas, according to officials.

Regardless of area, the service plans will be one of the key selling points, Sprint says. Xohm will veer away from a subscription strategy and will instead adopt a strategy similar to that for many public Wi-Fi hotspots. A user will have the option of buying as little as a day or week of access in addition to more common month-to-month plans and year-plus contracts. Discussions are also underway to allow roaming between WiMAX networks, the company adds. Sprint is not ready to reveal pricing for Xohm but says the rates should be appealing in light of an approach that will not subsidize devices to lure customers into signing long-term deals.

"People will be excited about our rates," says Sprint CTO Barry West. "They won't be ecstatic about them because we're not going to give it away."

Sprint has also clarified some details of the devices available on launch. Though the carrier itself will only sell a notebook card and an external modem on launch, as many as 10 devices will be ready by the launch, including a future Nokia handheld (likely based on the N810). ASUS has also said it would launch an updated Eee PC in the same timeframe and has been demonstrating WiMAX at the Consumer Electronics show this week. A Korean gaming handheld is also known to support the 4G service and may represent the POSDATA G100.

Some devices may have their access costs factored into buying the device, effectively making access 'free' for the user, West explains. The Amazon Kindle represents an early example of this business model and factors EVDO access into its $399 price.

The Intel-designed WiMAX technology is also expected to become more commonplace in notebooks and will be part of a chipset that can be installed into any Intel notebook, though no companies have yet announced systems with the feature built-in.

by MacNN Staff



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