US operator Sprint yesterday held a demo day in Baltimore to celebrate the launch of its Xohm WiMAX network in the city and provide details on device availability now that the first laptop computers with embedded WiMAX connectivity have gone on sale. Intel has begun shipping its first combined WiMAX/Wi-Fi module, formerly code-named ‘Echo Peak,’ as part of the Intel WiMAX/Wi-Fi Link 5050 Series that is an optional feature for Intel Centrino 2-based laptops. Several PC makers have announced plans to include the silicon, including Acer, Asus, Lenovo and Toshiba. From yesterday, WiMAX-based Intel notebooks can be found online at Amazon.com and NewEgg.com in the US. Dell, Panasonic, Samsung and Sony also plan to support WiMAX in their laptops starting in 2009. Intial WiMAX access in Baltimore is via a modem or Express aircard, although a USB dongle by ZTE and Nokia’s N810 Internet tablet will be available later this month. A dualmode device – allowing users to access both Sprint’s new WiMAX network and its nationwide EV-DO mobile network – is expected to be launched by the end of the year. According to an Unstrung report, the operator promises “nearly a dozen devices” on the market by the end of December with “20 additional devices going through the [WiMAX] certification process.”
Sprint’s first WiMAX deployment in Baltimore is expected to be followed by rollouts in Boston, Chicago, Philadelphia, Washington and Northern Virginia in the coming months. The operator is marketing the networks as “city-sized hotspots” and claims broadband speeds better than EV-DO or WCDMA-based technologies. The move comes as the GSMA and a large number of high-profile industry players last week launched a ‘Mobile Broadband’ initiative for notebooks focused on GSM-based technology.