Would-be WiMax users find a shortcut

US broadband geeks changing post codes to get an earlier crack at Sprint's new wireless service

Wireless users in the US city of Baltimore are standing politely in line to sign up for just launched Sprint WiMax service, called XOHM, pronounced "zohm," at slightly better than the expected rate, according to Sprint executives.

However, unauthorized users in Chicago, Boston, Dallas, Philadelphia, Washington DC, and Northern Virginia are apparently cutting the line.

According to published reports on the Web, those who can't wait to try out Sprint's high-performance wireless technology (4Mbps downlink and 2MBps up) in Baltimore -- the only place where the service is officially launched -- have found a workaround: Simply registering with a Baltimore post code and getting themselves a WiMax card.

Boston, Dallas, Philadelphia, Washington DC, and Northern Virginia are all places targeted by Sprint for a WiMax rollout, but the network is not complete, and users may find varying levels of service in these cities.

But that hasn't stopped the diehards.

One blogger tells his fellow broadband geeks to "UPS air your Baltimore WiMax hardware for your fix of Wimax geekery."

This blogger is going so far as to fly to Boston with his Baltimore hardware to try it out.

If this is any indication of pent-up demand and or need for broadband wireless capabilities, Sprint may be in for a subscriber bonanza because the fact is, most analysts agree that Sprint's only technology competition, LTE, will not be available until 2010, and then from a limited number of providers.

"LTE is at the stage where the spec is just getting done and test equipment is being made. More aggressive wireless carriers will deploy LTE in 2010; the others will wait to 2012," said Phil Solis, principal mobile analyst with ABI Research.

Meanwhile, the self-proclaimed broadband geek ended his blog with this assurance for those who were breathlessly waiting more news.

"When we get there [Boston], I will let you know how it works at the airport and surrounding suburbs."

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Ephraim Schwartz

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