Sprint Sets Baltimore WiMax Event for Oct. 8

Sprint Nextel will hold an event "celebrating" its WiMax mobile broadband network in Baltimore on Oct. 8, though the carrier says the network will launch by the end of September as promised.

Baltimore will be the first city to get the service, called Xohm, which is expected to deliver multiple megabits per second to each subscriber, comparable to wired home broadband. Xohm will also be launched in neighboring Washington, D.C., this year, as well as in Chicago. Sprint has said it is also constructing WiMax networks in Philadelphia, Boston and Dallas-Fort Worth. It has not disclosed pricing.

The long-awaited WiMax network has been delayed several times, partly by turmoil at Sprint, which ousted Chairman, President and CEO Gary Forsee last October. A tentative deal with startup service provider Clearwire to jointly build a nationwide infrastructure fell apart in the wake of Forsee's firing, but in May Sprint and Clearwire agreed to form a US$14.5 billion joint venture, called Clearwire, with investment from Intel, Google and three cable companies. Sprint and Clearwire are going ahead with early WiMax networks and plan to combine their networks after the joint-venture deal closes.

The WiMax infrastructure will be the first major deployment in the U.S. of a 4G (fourth-generation) mobile data network and will be open to a wide variety of devices, which will be sold in retail stores rather than by the carrier. Sprint is struggling as the number-three carrier behind AT&T Mobility and Verizon Wireless, and is taking advantage of spectrum licenses that it and Clearwire own across the U.S.

WiMax is based on an open standard and has been deployed in fixed and mobile forms in several countries, but it is still a relatively new technology. It is, however, available ahead of the other major 4G technology, LTE (Long-Term Evolution), which is not expected to be widely deployed until 2010 or later. AT&T and Verizon plan to use LTE.

The Oct. 8 event, set for Baltimore's Bond Street Wharf Park, will feature Sprint Nextel CEO Dan Hesse as well as executives from Intel and other partner companies, according to an invitation sent to reporters. Despite the later event, Sprint will launch the Baltimore network before the end of this month, spokesman John Polivka said in an e-mail message on Tuesday. The carrier has been promising a September launch for several months.

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