By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
Sprint Nextel teamed with Intel, Motorola and Samsung to announce plans for a fourth quarter 2007 commercial launch of mobile WiMAX wireless-broadband service in select markets.
Service will be expanded in 2008 to markets with a combined population of more than 100 million people, and more markets will go on-line after that with the service, which promises residential-broadband speeds over a wireless network.
The carrier also accelerated its rollout of CDMA 1x EV-DO Revision A technology to the fourth quarter of this year.
In announcing its choice of WiMAX for so-called fourth-generation (4G) wireless service, Sprint said it eventually foresees a wide range of cellphones and other mobile devices connected wirelessly to the Internet at residential-broadband speeds averaging 2-4 Mbps for the downlink. The devices will include music- and video-downloading portable media players (PMPs), handheld gaming devices, handheld navigation systems, digital cameras and other CE devices.
Sprint chief technology officer Barry West said he expects “a whole range” of devices to be available at launch, including “new small types of PCs.” Those first devices will be WiMAX-only devices, but in the future dual-mode cellphones will operate in Sprint's CDMA 1x and 1x EV-DO markets and in WiMAX markets.
Equally important are the speeds at which handheld devices will be able to transmit data, enabling owners of 4G-equipped cellphones or video cameras to share events live with friends and relatives sitting at PCs or Internet-connected TVs.
Mobile WiMAX will “deliver the Internet everywhere” at prices benchmarked to residential broadband service, West said. He foresaw the potential to deliver 1GB of data monthly for “well under $20 per month.”
“You'll just naturally get the wireless experience” without driving to a Wi-Fi hot spot, choosing a hot spot provider, and paying around $10 per hour of use, said West, who becomes president of Sprint's 4G wireless broadband unit.
Said Motorola chairman/CEO Ed Zander,” The Internet is going airborne.”
Sprint will launch its 4G service sooner than previously disclosed and will become the first U.S. carrier to deliver 4G. Earlier this year, Sprint sketched out plans to launch mobile broadband service sometime in 2008 or early 2009. At the time, the company hadn't selected the technology it would use.
In choosing the Internet Protocol-based technology, Sprint said mobile WiMAX has major infrastructure and chip makers behind it, delivers four times the throughput of other wireless technologies at up to one-tenth the cost, and is better suited for its 100MHz of 2.5GHz spectrum than competing technologies.
Also driving down costs and raising throughput are the 50,000 Sprint Nextel cell sites onto which the technology can be overlaid, Sprint said.
Mobile WiMAX allows for use in moving vehicles at speeds up to 150 kilometers per hour, said Samsung Telecommunications Network president KiTae Lee.
WiMAX will coexist and complement Sprint's existing EV-DO and forthcoming EV-DO Rev. A services, the company contended. Dual-mode EV-DO/WiMAX devices, including cellphones, would default to the higher capacity WiMAX network for high-speed data when in a WiMAX market, then hand off to EV-DO when outside the market.
There will be plenty of WiMAX and EV-DO markets.
Sprint said it will extend the Rev. A footprint to more than 40 million people by year's end, then extending it to match its EV-DO Rev. 0 footprint by the third quarter of 2007.
The Rev. 0 footprint currently reaches 153 million people but will be expanded to more than 200 million people by the end of this year. Previously, Sprint planned to expand Rev. 0 to 180 million people by the end of 2006.
Rev. A 's faster data rates will enable video telephony, multiuser videoconferencing, voice over IP, music on demand, video messaging vs. picture messaging, high-performance push-to-talk, and faster file transfers, Sprint said. The first Rev. A products will be wireless laptop-PC modems in the PCMCIA Type II, USB, and ExpressCard form factors, Sprint added.
This TWICE webinar, hosted by senior editor Alan Wolf, will take a look at what may be the hottest CE products at retail that will be sold during the all-important fourth quarter. Top technologies, market strategies and industry trends will be discussed with industry analysts and executives.