updated 10:20 am EDT, Wed March 26, 2008
Comcast Google Fund Xohm
Multiple cable providers as well as other key technology companies are helping fund Sprint's still young WiMAX-based Xohm network, according to tips provided to the Wall Street Journal. Those allegedly aware of the situation explain that the 4G, wide-area wireless network is slated to receive as much as $1 billion from cable giant Comcast to help expand the Sprint service beyond its three-city trial; opposing cable providers Time Warner and Bright House are also believed to have pledged support of up to $500 million and $200 million.
The investments from cable companies are said to have roots in a desire to expand beyond wired data. In some cases, the cable networks are looking into co-developing handhelds that would tap into the content they already host as part of their TV deals, according to the report. Their investments are likely tied to stakes in Xohm that would allow them to buy bulk access to the WiMAX service for new, related services.
Significantly, WiMAX creator Intel and Google are also purported to be involved in funding Xohm. Intel would likely be one of the largest investors and match Comcast's $1 billion, while Google may invest "hundreds" of millions of dollars to see the project grow. Neither has committed to a deal, though Google has been a frequent advocate of open wireless platforms like Xohm, going so far as to place a $4.6 billion symbolic bid in the FCC's recent 700MHz auction to trigger an open access rule.
WiMAX is expected to be a key selling point for Intel's upcoming Centrino 2 platform, which will offer WiMAX chipsets as an option for notebooks.
Sprint is claimed to be pushing last-minute negotiations between all the parties with the goal of making an announcement at next week's CTIA cellular expo, lending extra publicity to the launch and reassuring investors in the company. Sprint has been steadlily losing customers and money in recent months due to its customer support woes and has struggled to justify Xohm despite its higher speeds compared to Sprint's 3G network.