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February 2008 | Volume 11/ Number 2
The Zippy Files

WiMAX Gets Its Second Wind

Just as the public and Wall Street were writing off Sprint Nextel’s (News - Alert) efforts to bring WiMAX to North America, a salvo of major announcements have appeared to prove to even the most skeptical among us that substantial wireless broadband services are approaching and will soon be available.

As we were about to go to press, revamped versions of Asus’ Eee PC and OQO, Inc’s Model 02 devices were demonstrated running built-in WiMAX that can connect to Sprint’s WiMAX-based Xohm (News - Alert) (pronounced “zoam”) network that may have launched by the time you read this.

A number of WiMAX-capable laptop and sub-notebook devices were talked about at this recent Asus/Intel (News - Alert)/Sprint press event in Las Vegas.

We all remember how WiFi adoption got a tremendous boost when Intel put a WiFi chipset in a little card for laptops. Now Intel hopes to do the same thing for WiMAX (News - Alert), by getting all sorts of WiMAX silicon out there for laptops, ultra-mobiles and Mobile Internet Devices (MIDs). Indeed, one of Intel’s efforts is codenamed “Echo Peak”; it’s a minicard for Centrino notebooks based on their Montevina mobile platform, that manages to integrate both WiMAX and WiFi (News - Alert) technology on a single chip. Another is the Menlow platform for ultra-mobiles and MIDs. Yet another WiMAX chipset codenamed “Baxter Peak” is for such mobile devices as Nokia’s (News - Alert) upcoming WiMAX-enabled N-series Internet tablets, such as the N800 with its 5.7-inch wide screen.

Asus showed photos of an ultra mobile PC, the R50A, with built-in WiMAX, GPS capability and a 5.6-inch screen.

The Las Vegas event brought some attention to OQO (News - Alert), which was displaying a Mobile WiMAX-enabled version of their Model 02 computer, thought OQO is not currently selling the device. At the moment you’ll have to settle for their versions of the model 02 based on EV-DO Rev. A in the U.S. and HSDPA for the international market. Still, seeing another ultra mobile PC compatible with Sprint’s Xohm network – even just one demo model – gives one even more confidence in the launch of WiMAX in the U.S.

OQO, headquartered in San Francisco, is an interesting company, having devised some of the world’s smallest devices that can run Windows XP and Vista, along with multimedia and networked business applications. Having a Vista machine lurking in your shirt pocket can give you a strange feeling. OQO obviously couldn’t avoid imbuing at least one of their ultra mobiles with Mobile WiMAX so as to partake of Sprint’s Xohm network success.

Several months prior to this event, Sprint and Motorola (News - Alert) hosted a demonstration of Xohm’s WiMAX capabilities on a boat in the Chicago River, in Chicago, using four tower base stations, 12 laptops, some WiMAX-enabled cell phones, and Motorola customer premise WiMAX gateways.

Sprint’s tests reveal that Xohm will provide between 2-4 Mbps downstream and 1-2 Mbps upstream with 70 millisenconds (ms) latency while the user device is stationary, and 2.4 ms downstream and 1.4 ms up with a 99 ms latency upstream while the device is moving. Fortunately, WiMAX’s QoS (Quality of Service) will be more like a real broadband service (cable, DSL, T1) than conventional, flaky cellular-wireless systems. Sprint says it will support unlimited data transfers over its Xohm WiMAX service, for $55 per month, with no contracts or early termination fees. IT

Richard Grigonis is Executive Editor of TMC’s IP Communications Group.

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