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Sprint promises WiMAX in September

Before 'competing 4G' technologies

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Sprint CEO Dan Hesse has laid out a schedule for the company's much-awaited WiMAX deployment, which will now be launched in Baltimore in September. Washington DC and Chicago will also get coverage before the end of the year.

While Hesse was addressing NXTcomm his CTO, Barry West, was extolling the utility of their WiMAX network at the WiMAX Forum in Amsterdam, as reported by telecoms.com. He admitted that the original schedule has slipped. Despite having 575 operational cell sites the back office system has proved more complex than anticipated.

"I'm probably two months behind where I thought I would be," said West, adding that the system now allows the company to "activate a device over the air under five minutes and set up a billing relationship with the customer".

Amdocs is providing that back-end system, and Sprint will be hoping the company has improved since handling Vodafone's upgrades.

Hardware to access the network won't be subsidised, so punters will have to pay the true cost for the PC Card modems, USB dongles or Nokia N810 devices which will (probably) be the only things available at launch. But with Intel pushing WiMAX so very hard it will no-doubt be built into laptops by the end of the year.

What's most impressive is the way that both West and his boss keep referring to WiMAX as a "4G" technology, despite it offering speeds comparable to 3G HSPA networks (2 to 4 Mb/sec). The idea that WiMAX counts as "4G" is by no means a consensus: last week Nortel announced they were dropping all their WiMAX development to focus on proper 4G technologies such as LTE (Long Term Evolution).

But Sprint and the rest of the WiMAX crowd much prefer to compare themselves to LTE, enabling them to claim they're ahead of the curve rather than deploying a network which is no better than the competition already has, and far worse than that competition is planning. ®

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