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Sprint WiMax set to launch in April -- is it important?

Sprint's WiMax network is ready to launch in April, but is it truly an important event for the wireless world? Speaking at the 2008 Consumer Electronics Show, Sprint CTO Barry West announced that the company is on track to launch their WiMAX service, called Xohm, around the end of April.

For those of you who haven't been following the news, WiMax (or Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access) is a relatively new method of wireless networking based on the IEEE 802.16 standard. In short, WiMax is something of a bridge between traditional WiFi and current generation broadband wireless networking.

WiMAX will provide broadband wireless access up to 30 miles (50 km) for fixed stations, and 3-10 miles (5-15 km) for mobile stations. In contrast, the WiFi/802.11 wireless local area network standard is limited in most cases to only 100-300 feet (30-100m). This means you can use a WiMax enabled device to browse the web from anywhere ... as long as you are a few miles away from a WiMax network/subscriber station.

Daily, weekly or monthly payments ... no contracts.
The service is expected to be priced at around $40 per month, and will not subsidize end-user hardware, but will also not require customers to sign up for contracts to get service, and any compatible hardware will be eligible for service. Sprint is also planning to offer pricing by the day or week, akin to many WiFi hotspot providers.

WiMax: It's not just for computers anymore.
While Sprint demonstrated two modem devices at CES, and participated in the preview of the new Asus Eee PC with WiMax, computers aren't their only target. West went on to discuss the possibility of WiMAX-enabled consumer electronics that would have the cost of their service paid upfront, in the purchase price, such as digital cameras which would interact with online storage or photo-sharing sites.


Current Eee PC (left) and Next-Gen Eee PC (right).

Coming soon? Well, maybe.
Despite Sprint's announcements about WiMax service launching in April, multiple manufacturers said their WiMax products won't be available until much, much later this year ... at the earliest. Although many consumers are excited about the release of the next-generation Eee PC with WiMax, Asus contacts informed us that the new Eee PC won't arrive in stores until the end of 2008 (or the beginning of 2009). Toshiba, another notebook manufacturer considering WiMax for their next-generation Satellite notebook line, couldn't even provide details regarding when WiMax will be offered on their notebooks.

Special thanks to Adama D. Brown at Brighthand.com for contributing to this article.

This was first published in January 2008

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