Stop Swift Boating WiMAX

Sprint's XOHM service has barely clocked a week of commercial operation in Baltimore, and you'd think the company had been in the sub-prime mortgage business with all the media sniping this week. If I'm Dan Hesse, I'd be asking who is trying to Swift Boat me.

Think I'm kidding? CNET leads with "Sprint's WiMax efforts doomed to failure?" and anchors Sprint's business model to the failure of EarthLink's city-based WiFi efforts. The piece goes on to kvetch about how few WiMAX devices are available rather than wonder why companies would ship lots of WiMAX devices before the networks are up and running. I also have to take issue with throwing the iPhone and Earthlink's network in a sentence; the latter was door-knob dead before the former was everyone's pocket toy.

A Network World story labels WiMAX as "something of an oddball technology" in the mobile data world. This is likely stemming from a long-standing whisper campaign about how mobile WiMAX is "unproven" and "doesn't work," and yet AT&T seems to feel a business venture between Sprint and ClearWire deserves court action.

If that's not enough, there was also considerable gnashing of teeth over Sprint's WiMAX network management policies where they say they may do some limiting or restricting of apps to protect the network. It resulted in trigging a micro, knee-jerk Network Neutrality storm, rather than considering that Sprint has historically and traditionally been among the most "hands off" when it has come to data cellular usage and Internet usage.

If you want to make reasonable arguments about the credit markets maybe slowing down WiMAX deployment (still more) or point out Clearwire's spotty track record in running a cash-flow positive business, I'm willing to listen.  But I'm not sure if we can have such discussions based upon the thoughtless mudslinging that's taking place right now.

Right now, WiMAX is the only 4G game in town and if it you think it has problems, you better start wondering how long it will realistically take for LTE to appear on a cell tower near you.

- Doug

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