As Sprint and its partners celebrate the official launch of the first U.S. commercial WiMax network, questions remain about just how you pay for a $5 billion network in a financial market full of turmoil. Sprint thinks its partnerships with Intel, Google, Comcast and Time Warner will insulate the ambitious project to build a nationwide wireless, IP-based data network.
BALTIMORE-As Sprint representatives introduced one executive after another
and invited them to share the stage Oct. 8 with Sprint Nextel
Dan Hesse and Barry West, CTO and president
of Sprint's Xohm WiMax unit, the bonhomie was worthy of Charm City.
Celebrating the official launch of the nation's first commercial WiMax
network on a sparkling morning in Baltimore's
historic waterfront district, West crowed, "The United States has now made
a major step toward moving to a mobile broadband network. Xohm will extend the
home and office Internet experience to anywhere you are."
Joining the handshaking and backslapping were executives from Sprint's
partners in the ambitious project to launch a wireless, IP-based data network,
including Sean Maloney, Intel's executive vice president and chief sales and
Representatives from Lenovo
and Acer, which are each rushing notebooks into the market
equipped with Intel chip sets to take advantage of the new wireless broadband
technology, climbed onto the stage for their kudos, as did makers of WiMax
modems and dongles and other WiMax gear makers.
"Today is all about the embedded model and the WiMax chip," West
said, grabbing a pair of hedge clippers and clipping a strand of wire
symbolizing traditional cable and DSL
broadband lines. "This is a special one for Verizon."
Click here to see images of Lenovo's new WiMax-enabled ThinkPad laptops.
Then came the hard questions: Will the technology work across a nationwide
network, does the business model make sense and how do you pay for it?
West said if WiMax can make it in Baltimore, then it can make it anywhere,
noting that Baltimore's brick buildings and abundance of water made covering
the city with a wireless Internet connection fast enough to run Web 2.0
applications a unique challenge.
"The RF [radio frequency] propagation typically doesn't behave itself
with a lot of water around," West said. "All of our engineers will
tell you this city is challenging."
Although the Baltimore rollout
is only partially completed, with approximately 130 of a needed 300 towers lit,
West said there have been "very, very few customers who have said it's not
working, but the take-up rate is extremely encouraging and more than we
expected." He added that the Xohm Web site had 30,000 hits in the first
four days of the rollout.