WiMAX World: Barry West’s vision for Xohm
CHICAGO — Barry West likes meat. When he’s in a new city, he would be very pleased if his handheld device could alert him to restaurants nearby that shared his culinary interest, while eliminating those unsavory vegetarian places from consideration. The new WiMAX network he’s building for Sprint can do just that.
Sprint’s chief technology officer laid down details of the planned Xohm service today at WiMAX World, saying that the multitude of WiMAX demos running in McCormick Place and out in the city over Motorola’s live WiMAX network allows him to finally move beyond the question of technology.
“We’ve gotten past whether WiMAX works,” West said. “Now we can have the debate I’ve always wanted to have.”
West revealed plans to incorporate within Xohm location-based services tied to advertising and search and portal services designed by partner Google, all of which could potentially make Xohm’s pipe a little less dumb and add a new revenue stream to the service. West said presence controls and embedded GPS could push localized advertising to the handset, accessing customer settings and preferences from the network.
Ultimately, West said, the WiMAX service will have to be an open service, but Sprint and its partners do need to distinguish it from other broadband services, making it a destination network rather than just another means to access the Internet.
To accomplish that, Xohm will have to break the typical cellular business model, West said, echoing a familiar refrain in his stump WiMAX speech. While West listed off the usual plans to end device subsidies, required contracts and walled-garden data services, he also offered insight into how the Xohm service would be provisioned and billed. Instead of going into a Sprint store — though some devices will certainly be available there — a customer would buy a handset at any number of consumer electronics outlets, West said. A customer would activate the device, connect to the network and select a plan and a payment method, all from the device and over the network without a customer service representative to be seen.
“The first time I know about a new customer is when they click on the Xohm button on their device and go to the [Xohm] home page,” West said. They pay in advance, either for a day, week, or a month’s service, and there are no needs for credit checks or to worry about bad debt, West said. “I don’t have to hold you to a contract, and the only reason I would want a contract is if you wanted a discount on my rates.”
That kind of business model invites device-makers to take over from Sprint not just the marketing and sales of the device but also the creation of their own services — something carriers in the U.S. have always resisted. The Xohm model, however, may very well give new incentive to companies like Nokia, which last month launched an ambitious Web services, gaming and music portal called Ovi that bypasses the operators’ own applications portals.
“We’re encouraging [device-makers] to sell into the market under their own brand,” West said. “Can you imagine doing that with 3G?”
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© 2013 Penton Media Inc.
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