The World According to Barry
For more coverage of the Sprint's Xohm network see Telephony’s Xohm topic page
With the launch of the first Xohm network in Baltimore, Sprint's 4G president (and WiMAX evangelist) Barry West saw years of his hard work made a reality. But myriad challenges still lie ahead before the service provider's ambitious WiMAX rollout can truly be considered a success.
With less than two weeks to go until Sprint launches its Baltimore WiMAX network, Barry West is about to see the culmination of the last two years of his professional life.
In those 25 months, West has lived and breathed nothing but WiMAX. He has supervised the rollout of his chosen technology in three regions of the U.S. He has coaxed arch-competitors from the infrastructure and handset realms to leave their distant corners of the globe and join him under the same roof to ensure he gets an interoperable network. He has negotiated deals with Google and other companies to populate his new Xohm service with content and applications.
In the two years since being named Sprint's president of 4G, West has watched the executives who greenlighted his project move on, leaving him to persuade a new executive team to keep things running. He has watched the company's stock price tumble, its profits turn into losses and its core CDMA subscriber base dwindle, forcing the company to question whether it had the financial wherewithal to tackle such an enormously expensive project. He helped negotiate new sources of funding: a merger of assets and operations with Clearwire, along with billions of dollars from Intel, Google and cable operators. And if that weren't enough, he spent a good portion of those two years crisscrossing the globe, making speech after speech, delivering presentation after presentation in an effort to convince the telecom world of the virtues of his chosen technology and sell his ideas for a radical new wireless business model. In the process, he has tolerated the jeers of skeptical operators and competing vendors, which accused him of latching on to half-baked technology and a hopeless business plan — and he has struck back with equal determination.
A lot has happened in two years, and West readily admits this is the most difficult project he has undertaken in his life. But with the flip of a switch on Sept. 29, he witnessed the first fruits of those labors — though not literally, because Barry West was on vacation.
“I set my vacation dates a long time ago,” West said. “You really want to be at the birth of your baby, but if you have to be in Iraq, then you have to be in Iraq. In my case, I have to be in the Greek islands. Otherwise I'll lose my relationship.”
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