Sprint Nextel launches a WiMAX network in the USA
US mobile carrier Sprint Nextel has launched the first section of its Xohm WiMAX network in Baltimore, Maryland, which it plans to extend throughout the US. Aimed at home users, the news release claims customers should see download speeds of up to 4 Mbps, for a fixed price of $25 a month. Mobile access costs $30 a month, while a "day pass" is $10.
The devices offered by Sprint Nextel for accessing the US's first commercial WiMAX network are Samsung ExpressCards at just under $60 and a Zyxel modem for just under $80. US users will be able to buy additional devices, such as notebooks based on Intel's Centrino 2 chipset and the Nokia N810 WiMAX Edition, from Xohm.com this year.
Sprint Nextel has been involved in WiMAX for some time and began its project to create a nationwide WiMAX network two years ago. In June, it said that Chicago and Washington would follow Baltimore this year, receiving IEEE 802.16e wireless internet – but there was no mention of this in yesterday's press release. Sprint announced in early May that it was setting up a joint venture with Clearwire to give the USA total WiMAX network coverage by 2010. The seal is to be set on the partnership next quarter.
WiMAX's future is still uncertain. A long-distance high-speed microwave internet link, it is favoured and backed by Intel, but in Europe and other areas with high levels of GSM mobile phone penetration, 3G and 3.5G data access is becoming well-established, with 802.11 wireless networks for higher-speed short-range connections. WiMAX is an alternative to both – a "wireless MAN" or Metropolitan Area Network. Whereas "Wifi" covers up to 100m outdoors or around 30m indoors, WiMAX can reach up to 30km, but for the best speeds – around 10Mb/s – its reach is more like 10km with line-of-sight or 2km without.
It is currently most widely used in Pakistan, with 17 cities offering WiMAX service. A snag to worldwide adoption is that there is no internationally-agreed frequency range for WiMAX. The US uses 2.5GHz, Pakistan 3.5GHz, and other countries are likely to adopt these or 2.3 or 3.3GHz. It can use any frequency below 66GHz, though, so its adoption may be boosted by use of analogue TV frequencies as countries shift to digital TV broadcasting.