Sprint and Motorola hosted a demonstration this past week of Sprint’s forthcoming "Xohm" WiMax service for a group of technology journalists in Chicago. The presentation, which was done on a boat in the Chicago River, involved four towers, 12 laptops, and an unspecified number of WiMax enabled cell phones, as well as example units of Motorola WiMax home/office gateways.
Speed tests performed by Sprint representatives at the request of Ars Technica showed system speed to be 3.2 Mbits downstream and 1.5 Mbits upstream with a 70 ms latency while the ship was docked; 2.4 down and 1.4 up with a 99 ms latency while moving. Sprint has described its expected network performance under real world conditions as being 2-4 megabits downstream and 1-2 megs up. The service quality was described as being more similar to cable or DSL Internet than conventional cellular-wireless systems, which have a higher latency.
The carrier has also announced that it expects to make the service available to approximately 70 million people in 22 major cities by the end of 2008, with partner Clearwire covering an additional 30 million in the same time period. The two networks are promised to seamlessly interconnect.
No Sprint contracts will be required to get or keep the service; according to the company’s WiMax unit head, Barry West, users will have to pay an unsubsidized price for their hardware, but in return, no contracts or early termination fees will be involved for users who wish to cancel service. Users will also have full choice of what hardware they want to use on the network, ranging from cellular phone style devices to home routers.
Sprint plans a "soft launch" for its Xohm network in the Chicago and Baltimore/Washington D.C. areas by the end of the year, with commercial availability in the first half of 2008.