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Sprint Nextel Sets WiMAX Soft Launch

Reston, Va. — Sprint Nextel today became the first major carrier to announce a soft launch of mobile WiMAX service.

The company will offer WiMAX by the end of year in the Chicago and Baltimore/Washington markets followed by a broader launch in 2008.

Sprint Nextel will offer WiMAX under the Xohm brand (pronounced Zoam). The company claims it is two years ahead of competitors in bringing broadband to the mobile market.

Sprint chief technical officer Barry West said that Sprint partners have committed to embed 50 million WiMAX chipsets in devices.

Under a network sharing agreement announced last month with Clearwire, Sprint Nextel expects the network build out to reach 100 million people by the end of 2008 with Sprint providing coverage to 70 million and Clearwire to 30 million people. That coverage should grow to 125 million people by the end of 2010, which would represent approximately 48 million U.S. households, nearly 5 million small/home office and more than 130 million consumer electronics devices.

Sprint Nextel plans to invest approximately $2.5 billion in capital for WiMAX through year-end 2008.

Areas expected to receive WiMAX in 2008, in addition to Chicago and Baltimore/Washington, include Boston; Providence, R.I.; New York; Pittsburgh; Cleveland; Cincinnati; Detroit; St. Louis; Kansas City, Mo.; Dallas, Austin and San Antonio, Texas; Phoenix; Los Angeles; Las Vegas; San Diego; and Tampa, Fla.

Initially the service is expected to be used as air cards for notebook PCs, said a Sprint Nextel spokesman. Eventually WiMax will be used for a wide array of consumer devices including gaming devices, cameras and voice devices. In the car, the service might be used for advanced diagnostics and more advanced tracking, he said.

In other financial forecasts, the company said it expects to generate between $2 billion and $2.5 billion in revenues for the fiscal year 2010 with more than 80 percent of that garnered from new lines of business.