In advance of its WiMAX rollout this fall, Sprint announced Thursday a lineup of mobile partners to localize its customer's 4G experience. In what the company calls "geobrowsing," XOHM users will get local news, weather and many other localized networking features delivered to their laptops and mobile devices.
The WiMAX service is expected to kick off in Baltimore in September, with Chicago and Washington, D.C., to follow before the end of the year.
Location, Location, Location
GPS in the XOHM system continually updates the user's position and feeds it to back-end applications. This feature is added by California-based Open Wave. Using uLocate as the foundation for the service, Sprint has tested and implemented a number of applications before rollout.
The partnership between Sprint and uLocate includes building the entire XOHM localized experience, with APIs provided to third-party developers for their applications. Some big names will be part of the launch.
Yelp will provide local business news all the way through local restaurant reviews. Eventful service will not only list events for XOHM users but will also map the locations. NAVTEQ will stream up-to-the-minute local traffic information, while Google will serve up localized searching and map features.
John Polivka, spokesperson at Sprint, explained the difference between the XOHM user experience and using the Internet. "With Internet access you could go to each vendor now as a separate interaction; but with XOHM, the services are aggregated into a service package that correlates them due to the intelligence in the network ; for example, plotting friend locations on a map, identifying a restaurant or entertainment venue from local search, and sharing plans to convene with the benefit of weather, traffic or ticket-purchase convenience."
XOHM users will have standard Internet as well. Polivka noted that there is no charge for third-party developers to become part of the program, but there would be revenue-sharing opportunities for both developer and Sprint. When asked if the XOHM service would serve up targeted advertising, ala Google and Yahoo, he indicated the business model allows for such arrangements.
Devices and Prices
Sprint also indicated it is working with a number of partners to deliver XOHM-enabled devices, although they declined to name them. One could imagine phones, PDAs and subnotebooks would be high on the list, although analysts predict laptop XOHM WiMAX cards will be the first and most popular access points to the 4G network.
The localized services are part of the standard XOHM package, said Polivka. "XOHM subscribers arrange a subscription, not a contract, and open an account ... then go to a portal which contains the bundled WiMAX services/applications. A new WiMAX-capable device is needed."
Although no pricing was announced, Polivka added, "There will be day passes, home and away plans, and the ability to have multiple devices under one agreement, versus the telecom model where each device is a separate contract."