Big happenings down at the Bond Street Wharf in Fells Point this Wednesday morning. Sprint formally launched its new wireless broadband network, known as XOHM, in 'lil old Baltimore, which we've been telling you about for awhile now.
In front of a video screen that said, "A Hotspot As Big As A City," Chief Technology Officer and President of XOHM Sprint Nextel Barry West told a crowd of press, tech analysts and techgeeks that with the launch of WiMAX,  "Now America is starting to lead." (That's West there cutting the proverbial cord with an assist from representatives of Sprint's partner companies like Intel, Samsung, Nokia Siemens, just to name a few.)
The earllier Sept. 29 launch was all about the network, West said, but today's event focused mostly on the new WiMAX-enabled devices and gadgets available to consumers (intrepid tech guru Gus will report on that later today).
Here are some highlights from the presser I attended:
For people still wondering Why WiMAX? West said, "We were looking for technology that was not only faster, but also cheaper, based on Internet technology protocol and affordable to consumers."

If you want to jump on the WiMAX bandwagon, you can buy the devices online at XOHM.com, Amazon, Nokia, and NewEgg. You can also by it by phone or visit one of the kiosks in local shopping malls or find them at local independent retailers. Once you buy the device (sorta like buying a cup of coffee), you can take it home, plug it in, go to the Web site and sign up for the level of service you want (by the day, month or lifetime).

West said much thought was put into making the sign up process as easy as possible for consumes.

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Asked why there are still gaps or "bubbles" in the Baltimore networks for users, West responded that the system is three-quarters of the way into build out and that "We're not trying to go head-to-head with cellular services today." As the build out continues, those bubbles will improve, he said.

I also asked West after the press conference about the current price points for the devices, which can cost $60 to $80, and whether the daily-monthly-lifetime rates were affordable for people in this ailing economy? Why not charge less to get more people to try out this new technology, in other words, especially since it's still only currently avaiable in Baltimore? What about people who want to try it out, but are currently locked into contracts with other providers?

"Eventually, you'll get out of those contracts," West said. "You will want to since we are going to grow this out. This might not be the right time to adopt this for people who are still in contracts or who are highly mobile. But for small businesses in Baltimore and for people who only need to connect in the city, this is a great deal, an amazing deal."

If WiMAX performs as promised, this could really change the way we connect to others in our personal and business lives. West talked at length after the presser about how WiMAX-enabled appliances could help cut short those exasperating service calls where you have to make a service appointment, a technician visits your house, diagnoses the problem, orders the part, makes an appointment to come back and then fixes your washer. With WiMAX, West said he sees the day coming when the tech can just diagnose your problem without a home visit.

That will be the day. And to think, as West said, "Just remember... It started here today."

Very exciting news. Anyone out there who is using WiMAX already? We want to hear from you.

(photo by me)

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