The numbers that were thrown around by Sprint CTO Barry West when describing how quickly Sprint Nextel's XOHM WiMax network will break from the gate mean one of two things: By this time next year the company will have either a very big network or a lot of explaining to do. And, at this point in the evolution of telecommunications, industry watchers are not likely to treat a company that overpromises too kindly.
The key question now (other than how to pronounce the network's name) is not whether XOHM will be a success -- there is plenty of time for executives to worry about that later -- but if it can transform a massive plan into a massive rollout in the time frame West promises.
In comments delivered at WiMax World in Chicago and reported at Unstrung, he said that he has "commitments" for WiMax circuitry to be in 50 million devices. In December, the carrier will inaugurate service in Chicago, Washington, D.C. and Baltimore. By next autumn, he said, Sprint, which is working with Clearwire, will address 20 markets. By the end of the year, 100 million people will have access to the service.
The market, at least among those who follow such things, seems primed. An interesting piece combining accounts from Ars Technica and The Seattle Times of the Sprint WiMax demo cruise on the pretty Chicago River -- including a YouTube video -- is available at DailyWireless.
RCR Wireless News takes a look at what some of those millions of devices will look like. The story starts with a bit about Samsung's M8100 -- which it describes as a PDA-style smartphone -- and the P9000. The P9000 sounds like a tablet PC, but the story doesn't use the term. The crux of the piece is that WiMax will be embedded in a tremendously wide array of devices and that prices for consumer gear will start out on the high side. Phil Solis, an analyst with ABI Research, said that early devices may also come with Evolution-Data Optimized (EV-DO) cellular connectivity.
According to IP Business and the Silicon Valley Blog, AT&T is sitting at the periphery of the action. Their postings say the carrier will use WiMax to supplement DSL service starting in the second quarter of next year. The WiMax offering will be in the spectrum owned by BellSouth and thus be in the footprint of the acquired company. In addition, AT&T subsidiary Alascom already offers WiMax services in Juneau.
The WiMax din will rise in the coming months. The story inside the story will be whether services really roll out on schedule, or if the noise is that of service provider marketing departments spinning bad news.