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Sprint Launches WiMax Wireless Service

Baltimore — Sprint launched commercial mobile WiMAX service today in parts of Baltimore and Baltimore County, where it has begun offering a $59.99 ExpressCard laptop modem and a $79.99 home modem for its Xohm-branded wireless-broadband service.

The Samsung-made Express Card laptop modem and the ZyXel-made home modem, both Xohm-branded, are available through the carrier’s Xohm Web site, telemarketing group and select independent wireless retailers.

A WiMAX-equipped USB modem, notebook PCs and the WiMAX edition of Nokia’s N810 Internet tablet will be available later this year, Sprint said. In the fourth quarter, Sprint also promised availability of the first dual-mode cellular/WiMAX device, which it didn’t describe but would likely be a laptop modem.

Through its 4G Xohm network, Sprint promises average download speeds of 2Mbps to 4Mbps, exceeding the average 600kbps to 1.4Mbps download speeds of CDMA 1x EV-DO networks and the 700kbps to 1.2Mbps download speeds of AT&T’s HSDPA (high-speed downlink packet access) network in the United States.

More markets will get Xohm service in short order, a spokesman said. “We are viewing the Baltimore launch as a validation of our business model and affirmation of marketing messages and programs,” he said. “We will absorb those and carry that experience into our other launches.

Xohm service will be available “soon” in Chicago and Washington and is “in the works” in Dallas and Fort Worth, Texas; Providence, R.I.; and Philadelphia, Xohm’s Web site said. By the end of 2009, the company added, it expects 60 million to 80 million consumers will be able to subscribe to mobile WiMAX service, with the number growing to 120 million to 140 million people by the end of 2010.

Xohm subscribers, who self-activate their devices, aren’t required to sign a contract and are given a choice of a month-to-month home plan, month-to-month mobile plan and a day pass. Subscribers can also activate two separate devices on one monthly plan. The service plans consist of a $10 day pass, a $25 monthly home service and a $30 monthly mobile service. A special launch plan, the $50 “Pick 2 for Life” monthly plan, covers two WiMAX devices.

Eventually, Sprint said, it expects 2.5GHz WiMAX technology to be embedded in a range of computing, portable multimedia, and other business and consumer electronic devices, including in-vehicle products offering navigation, news and entertainment services.

Separately, the company reiterated its expectations that, in the fourth quarter, it will merge its Xohm business with that of Clearwire to form a new company, also called Clearwire, to accelerate the deployment of nationwide mobile WiMAX network. Other investors in the merged entity will include Intel, Google, and cable operators Time Warner Cable, Comcast and Bright House Networks. Once the transaction is complete, Sprint will be the only national wireless carrier to resell Clearwire services, but the investing cable companies will also enter into wholesale agreements with the new company to sell mobile WiMAX service. The cable companies and the new Clearwire will also resell Sprint’s 3G wireless voice and data services.