With the formalization today of the XOHM Service, Sprint is releasing what could be the most exciting thing to hit the Internet in quite awhile. If real-world results are anything close to the specs that we’ve been drooling over for the past few years, WiMAX technology will revolutionalize mobile communications. Initial speeds will be about four times the speed of EVDO/HSDPA and will eventually scale up to the type of speed at which you will be able to stream High Definition movies and video conferencing.
Just as a reference point, the German WiMAX operator Deutsche Breitband Dienste (DBD) has two tariff plans. The first costing $12.99 per month offering 1 Mbit/s connection speed and 1 GB monthly traffic. The second plan has unlimited traffic, the speed increased to 2 Mbit/s for a $25.99 monthly fee. Not too shabby!
Where does Apple fit into all of this?
Apple is an innovator, a first mover. This service would be perfect for their whole line of products from Airport Extreme base stations, MacBooks, iPods, AppleTV’s and of course iPhones. Don’t forget that while PC laptop makers have been selling machines with EVDO and HSDPA wireless broadband built-in for years, Apple has only allowed this type of connection through third party PC/Express cards or tethering (which doesn’t always work so well). Why the wait?
Also, don’t forget that Apple’s new bff, Intel, is a huge part of the WiMAX (WiMacs? – called it!) push and will be the biggest supplier of chips for the platform over the next few years. Intel didn’t seem too miffed a few months ago that the iPhone was running a Samsung ARM chip, and mentioned that they were working with Apple on future wireless devices and with other companies on ultra mobile platform for Unix and Linux devices. Intel plans to include WiMAX chips as packages in the same way it currently packages wifi adapters with its Centrino chips.
Also, WiMAX is being rolled out in Germany and Japan, two of Apple’s bigger markets, with active trials underway and early 2008 mass rollouts planned. Clearwire, T-Mobile and many others also plan rollouts in the US and abroad and could also be prospective partners with Apple on this decidedly amazing technology.
AT&T to the curb?
But, what about AT&T and Apple’s five year relationship? The details haven’t been formally released, but it is likely that the AT&T-Apple exclusivity deal is only in voice communications, not data. We already know that new phoneless iPhone’s are being released soon and that Skype and other VOIP clients are in the works for the iPhone with or without Apple’s blessings. If the 6G iPod can do wireless data and run a Skype client on WiMAX, can AT&T complain?
We also know Steve Jobs likes to have choices (ask IBM’s PowerPC group) and that locking Apple into a seemingly eternal five-year relationship with AT&T could be suicide if the behemoth doesn’t keep up with technology – something monolithic monopolies are famous for. Would Apple do this? Likely not.
How will it go down?
Apple is likely testing this technology right now with its current product line. Apple likes to be the first to announce new technologies so there will probably be a huge announcement at MacWorld 2008 or perhaps even earlier. Sprint plans to cover 100 million people by the end of 2008. That is too many people who will have access to superior wireless technology for Apple to ignore.