Sprint 4G WiMAX | 5 Things You Should Know

For the most recent info, see 2011 Sprint 4G WiMAX Review


  1. What is WiMAX?
  2. How Fast is WiMAX?
  3. WiMAX Companies and Providers
  4. Competing technologies
  5. Coverage and where to get it?

So, what is WiMAX anyway? Sounds a little like WiFi but it’s not. The full tongue twister is  Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access. Let’s stick with WiMAX for now.

There are two types of WiMAX. Fixed and Mobile. Fixed, as the name suggests has no support for mobile technology.

No good in my book. We’re about mobile broadband here.

Even if it’s faster, it wouldn’t be much different from Satellite DSL connections. What’s really got everyone hyped is mobile WiMAX. That’s the kind you can use on your laptop while buzzing about town.

One WiMAX tower can cover 3,000 square miles and provide faster speeds than WiFi.

That’s like having a cable connection that you can access anywhere you get cell phone coverage.

Pretty revolutionary stuff. It could offer some serious competition to current 3G networks and future technologies. More on that later. For now, let’s look at the kind of speeds you can expect.

A WiMAX tower is able to handle up to 70 megabits per second (making it a 4G technology). That wouldn’t all come to one person though. It’d be similar to how cable companies split up a connection for a neighborhood. Even when shared, though, each person would get an average of 6 to 15 megabits per second.

At the lower end, that’s the speed you’d get from a cable provider. On the higher end, it surpasses anything current mobile technologies have to offer. Did we mention that it’s wireless too?

With this, people like you and me can enjoy things like:

  • Wireless High Definition (HD) TV on the go
  • Mobile Gaming (Up to 32 players in first person shooter games like Crysis and 16 in Halo)
  • Uninterrupted Wireless Internet
  • On Demand Movie/Music Downloads
  • Mobile Voice Over Internet Protocol (Mobile VoIP)

This lets WiMAX companies compete in many markets were once isolated to specialized companies.

Wireless HDTV could challenge the HD offerings of Comcast Cable, Time Warner and DirecTV.

Mobile VoIP would make users question having home phones as well as the VoIP offerings of T-Mobile HotSpot at Home and Vonage.

Wireless Broadband offerings would clash head to head with cellular 3G networks. CEO of WiMAX provider Clearwire surely threw some gas on the bonfire when he said “[our] tower density turns out to be almost identical to 3G tower densities”.

I smell a triple/quad play package in the air of Mobile Phone, Home Phone, Mobile Internet and Television in the air.

Such an offering that’s cheaper than the incumbents would flirt with consumers and spell danger to the competition. More on that in a bit.

Let’s take a closer look at what speeds of other companies (non-business products) along with what WiMAX:

Connection Type Average Download Speed Maximum Download Speed Average Upload Speed Maximum Upload Speed
Dialup 40-50 kbps 1 Mbps* N/A N/A
3G (EVDO/HSPA) 600 – 1400 kbps 3.1 Mbps 500 – 800 kbps 1.8 Mbps
DSL 2.971 Mbps 10 Mbps 512 kbps 896 kbps
Cable 2 – 4.8 Mbps 16 Mbps 3 Mbps 1 Mbps
WiFi Hotspots 1 – 3 Mbps 20 Mbps N/A N/A
WiMAX 2 – 4 Mbps 70 Mbps 500 Kbps – 1.5Mbps 70 Mbps

*1 Mbps dialup speed achieved by compression by Internet Service Provider servers.
To see how your current speed matches up, use this speed test tool below:

While WiMAX is being deployed in several countries around the world, it has yet to make a major foothold (pending a 2008 launch) in the United States. The companies that have put money into making it happen are:

Sprint Nextel Clearwire
Time Warner Comcast

Brighthouse Intel Google

Can you say deep pockets?

Half of that list is comprised of cable companies. There’s no doubt that this will serve as an ace in the hole for them. It would allow the cable providers to  compete with current 3G and upcoming 4G mobile broadband networks of Verizon, Alltel, AT&T and T-Mobile.

Sprint’s wireless broadband unit Xohm has merged with Clearwire. Since then, they’ve adopted the name Sprint 4G. For some reason, the word Xohm just didn’t catch on.

The currently operating Clearwire provides wireless broadband under 2 year contract agreements similar to cellular companies. With Sprint owning the majority of the company a radical shift in operating policy may rattle up the mobile broadband scene:

“At XOHM [Sprint 4G] we don’t believe in tying you down to long-term contracts.

As a XOHM member, you’ll get wireless broadband access on your terms:

  • By the day or by the month
  • No contracts
  • No cancellation fees
  • Simple activation and reactivation”

-From the Xohm Sprint 4G website

“Clearwire has no desire to block anything, whether content, devices, or apps”

-Barry West, Clearwire CEO

This may just be the kind of turn around that Sprint needs to reduce it’s high churn rate (customer retention). It might even be the beginning of a shift for Sprint from a mobile phone provider to a wireless broadband provider. While this might seem far fetched to some, a similar shift occurred when Apple released the iPod, iPhone and accompanying iTunes store.

When WiMAX is launched, the mobile broadband service will be offered. More advanced services like VoIP and Wireless HDTV will launch eventually but probably not in the first couple of months.

Tts likely competitors will be T-Mobile, Alltel, AT&T, and Verizon. All carriers provide a similar wireless broadband service through their 3G networks . As we mentioned earlier, 3G’s average speeds would be much slower than WiMAX.

With that in mind, it’s no wonder as to why

AT&T has been trying to get the FCC to block the Sprint/Clearwire merger.

They’d provide AT&T (not just AT&T Wireless) with some steep competition for just about all the services they offer.

In order to compete head to head, Verizon, Alltel and AT&T (no word from T-Mobile) have plans to launch Long Term Evolution networks (LTE).

When this launches, WiMAX will have serious contenders. LTE proposes to have a theoretical max download of 326 Mbps (real world averages will be less). The good news for Clearwire is that LTE won’t be ready to launch until 2010. That’s almost a 2 year head start for market penetration.

Another competing technology is Ultra Mobile Broadband (UMB), an evolution of current EV-DO technology. However, it may never see the commercial light of day. More on that here.

Sorry, you can’t get it just yet my friend…unless you’re in Baltimore. If you are, hop over to Xohm Sprint 4G.

At the precise millisecond it is available for the rest of us, expect this article to be updated with an exact link on where you can get it.

*Update: Check The Xohm coverage tool to see if it’s in your area

view Xohm Coverage Tool

Subscribe to the Mobile Broadband Reviews RSS feed to get the word when WiMAX will be available to you. RSS Feed

For now, Sprint WiMAX (Xohm or Clearwire) will launch commercially in Baltimore (September, 2008). It’ll then be rolled out to Washington, DC and Chicago by the end of the year.

Related Reading:

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Long Term Evolution – 5 Things Everyone Should Know

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