Sprint's Xohm gets ready for launch

Sprint is about to launch its new WiMax network and provides some details about the service.

New details about Sprint Nextel's soon-to-be-launched WiMax service are coming to light as the company prepares to launch its first city this month.

The service called Xohm is set to launch this month in Baltimore. More cities are expected to go online in the fourth quarter.

Last week, the company started providing more details about what the service will be able to do and where it will be offered next.

Sprint announced last week that it has signed deals with several partners to provide location services to make it easier for subscribers to find nearby restaurants, movie theaters, and other points of interest as well as plot routes on maps and get detailed information and directions on the go.

The location-aware technology will be available on a wide range of products using the Xohm network from laptops to mobile handsets to car navigation systems and even digital camera's.

Sprint is also making the application programming interfaces for XOHM available so that developers can create new services for Xohm devices.

The specific location-based services that will be available at launch include: uLocate Communications, which will offer its Buddy Beacon technology for tracking friends as well as its Where platform for accessing local information about restaurants, news, events and weather; Yelp, which provides local business reviews of restaurants, doctors, and more; Eventful, which offers local event listings with a map view; Topix, which provides local news; Navteq, which offers real time local traffic information; Accuweather, which offers local weather; and Google, which will offer its local search.

Barry West, president of the Xohm or Sprint Nextel, also revealed some other details last week during an interview with the Web site MuniWireless. He said that Sprint is at least a month ahead of its internal schedule for deploying WiMax access points with nodes already running Baltimore, Chicago and Washington, D.C., the site reported. The company has also begun installing equipment in Boston, Philadelphia and Dallas/Fort Worth. But he wouldn't give a specific timeframe for launching the new sites.

He confirmed the average download speed of the service is expected to be between 3 to 5 Mbps. And the company plans to have a range of devices available when Xohm launches in September including, modems from Zyxel and ZTE, a PC card from Samsung, and Nokia's already announced WiMax tablet.

Earlier this year, Sprint said it would merge its WiMax business with Clearwire's business, which is already operating a fixed-WiMax network in parts of the U.S. The combined company, which will be called Clearwire, will be majority-owned by Sprint and has taken investment from cable operators Comcast and Time Warner Cable as well as from big tech companies such as Intel and Google.

Sprint has been moving forward with its Xohm deployment as the company seeks the necessary regulatory approvals for its merger with Clearwire.

But the Xohm project has hit a few speed bumps along the way, as Sprint has struggled to get its core business back on track. Initially, the company had said it would launch the service in the first half of the year. It's been testing the mobile WiMax service since the end of last year in Chicago and the Washington-Baltimore area. In June it gave a firm launch time frame of September.

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