OQO to upgrade its UMPC to include Sprint Xohm WiMAX

You can't run out and buy it yet, but OQO is demonstrating what it said is the first ultra mobile PC (UMPC) to support Sprint's Xohm Mobile WiMAX wireless data system.

Sharon Fisher, BetaNews Senior CES Analyst: WiMAX is a wireless wide-area network built as a complement to the cellular network, so unlike WiFi, it can transmit data up to three miles away, at speeds of from 2 to 5 Mbps. Sprint Nextel showed off its WiMAX capability at last year's CES, and said it expected WiMAX service to be available to 100 million subscribers by this year. The company also said last year it expected to invest $3 billion in its WiMAX network over the next couple of years.

Since then, Sprint has named its WiMAX network Xohm, and had said in July it was working with Clearwire to develop it, but Clearwire terminated that agreement in November -- probably due to financial problems. That could result in an announcement later this year that Sprint plans to scale down its Xohm projections by up to 30%.


Even 100 million potential subscribers is pretty paltry; 70 million would be even less. Tests are currently underway in Baltimore/Washington and in Chicago.

In fact, there has been some discussion of Sprint spinning off Xohm altogether in order to focus on its core business as it faces its own financial problems.

The OQO demonstration is based on its Model 02, which currently measures 5.6 x 3.3 x 1 inch - basically, not much bigger than a package of index cards - and weighs about a pound. The current version, which supports slower but currently more available Sprint and Verizon EV-DO-based mobile broadband, costs from $1,299 to $2,349 depending on configuration. WiMAX offers higher performance than EV-DO, but until Mobile WiMAX came along, it didn't offer roaming.
OQO didn't say when, or even if, a Mobile WiMAX system would be available, or how much it would cost.

Scott Fulton, BetaNews: So remind us again, Sharon, since OQO's existing UMPC is equipped with what it already called "mobile broadband" from Sprint and Verizon Wireless, what's the difference that people are actually going to notice?

Sharon Fisher: Well, EV-DO is slower. And while WiMAX has the problem of not necessarily roaming, Mobile WiMAX -- presumably -- does.

Scott Fulton: But not everyplace on Earth has a Mobile WiMAX transmitter.

Sharon Fisher: Not yet. They have a big ol' spot a couple hours west of me, out in the boonies of Eastern Oregon.

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