Sprint and Clearwire aiming for 4Q-08 WiMAX launches

16 Jul 2008

The US cellular operator Sprint Nextel is looking to launch its first commercial mobile WiMAX services this September. Sprint is forming a partnership with the other major WiMAX spectrum holder in the US, Clearwire, as well as other investors including Intel, Google and several cable operators. Until this partnership is fully up and running and has been approved by regulators – expected early next year – Sprint and Clearwire will continue to roll out their own 802.16e networks. Sprint’s first launch, under the name Xohm, will be in Baltimore in September, with switch-ons following in Chicago and Washington DC. Clearwire plans to launch in Portland, Oregon, in early 4Q-2008, with Atlanta, Las Vegas and Grand Rapids, Michigan, to follow. A report from Muniwireless.com, which quotes a conversation with Clearwire CEO Ben Wolff, says the telco is currently beta testing its Portland network. The Sprint-Clearwire partnership, which will operate under the Clearwire name, is not expected to achieve anything like nationwide WiMAX coverage until 2010 or 2011.

Meanwhile, WiMAX partner Intel has launched its Centrino2 platform after a three-week delay while Intel waited for FCC approval of the 802.11n Wi-Fi standard. Besides 802.11n, Centrino2 had been expected to come with WiMAX connectivity built in, but this did not form part of the first release. A dual-mode Wi-Fi/WiMAX platform for notebooks will be ready before the end of the year, the chip manufacturer says.

Finally, Sprint is continuing a legal battle with an affiliate company, iPCS, over the future of the Xohm WiMAX network. iPCS has an agreement to resell Sprint services in 80 markets in Illinois, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Iowa, Ohio and Tennessee, and claims that under this agreement Sprint is not allowed to offer direct competition which would be the case if it launched WiMAX networks in these markets. Sprint argues that its WiMAX business will be spun off into a separate entity so the affiliate agreement is not being contravened. A court in Delaware has decided this week that it does not have the jurisdiction to make a judgement over two iPCS subsidiaries in Ohio, Horizon PCS and Bright PCS, so separate legal action will be necessary to settle the matter.