WiMAX Watch: XOHM Open For Business Today in Baltimore

Sprint Nextel Corp.today opened up its long-anticipated new wireless broadband network for public use here in Baltimore. They're calling it XOHM. The company says it'll be a fast, wireless way for people to surf the Web in the Baltimore area. Sprint's goal is to make the city one big "hotspot" -- much like what you'd find at your local coffee shop, but bigger. And faster. (ed note: This is all Gus, folks. Check out his Sprint launches WiMax in Baltimore story that ran today. -- DD)

You're probably wondering: how do I get a taste of it? And, just as important, is the pricing right for me?

If you were hoping for some instant gratification today, it ain't likely to happen -- unless you're one of several lucky "testers" in the Baltimore market. In the past several weeks, Sprint's given an unknown number of free computers to these testers and is relying on them for early feedback. (Sorry -- no more free computers left, a Sprint spokesman told me last week. The tester program was "oversubscribed," he said. I bet!)

Today's debut means you can order a device that you plug into the USB port of your desktop computer or your laptop. (The devices will enable you to catch the wireless signal, which is based on a technology called WiMAX.) In the near future, several computer makers will be releasing models that have the WiMAX chip built inside, so the new gadgets you buy going forward will likely be WiMAX-ready.

The device for your laptop is called an "ExpressCard." For your home/desktop computer, the device is simply called a modem. To order them, go to XOHM.com. Here's the pricing you can expect to see, in Sprint's own words:

"Starting 9/29, customers can purchase via XOHM web or telesales WiMAX service on new XOHM-branded Express aircards and modems. As a launch promotion the ExpressCard is offered at $59.99 and the modem at $79.99. Introductory service plans include a $10.00 Day pass, $25 monthly Home plan and $30 monthly On-the-go plan. There will be a special Pick 2 promotion, where the Home modem service ($25 monthly) and aircard mobile service ($30 monthly) can be combined for $50 monthly WiMAX service for life."

Wow. $50 service for life? Reason enough to live long and prosper. Check out the XOHM Website for more info.

If you're wondering whether where you live, work and/or play will be covered by Sprint's WiMAX network, wonder no more. That map above is of the XOHM network's coverage in the Baltimore area, as of last week.

You can also visit their Website and type in your address. The site will tell you if you're covered.

One caveat: Sprint's a little more than halfway done building their network in Baltimore. So, you may see a lot of white space on this map right now, but Sprint says they'll be able to cover the area pretty well by the time they're done building out the network some time in the next few months.

So here's what I want to know now: Is there anyone out there in Baltimore who is intrigued enough by this new network to put in an order today for one of their connection devices? Is paying $59 or $79 for a device, plus whatever plan you decide to pick for the Internet access, a deal for you? Are you more interested in the mobile wireless for your laptop or for its promise of wireless Internet connectivity for your home?

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