Finally! WiMax is officially here. I know this because executives pulled out the big scissors - in this case, hedge clippers - to the cut the symbolic copper wire (instead of a ribbon) to signify the end of the wired Internet. Whenever there's a ribbon cutting, you know its official.
I can't tell you how long I've been waiting for this. I first heard about WiMax years ago when it was Intel, not Sprint, that first started talking about it. Today, Intel is still involved but it's Sprint, which launched the initial WiMax service - called Xohm - in Baltimore. In the official ceremonial festivities, executives from Sprint and its lineup of partners showcased laptops that already have embedded WiMax chips.
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According to a CNET report, Intel announced that it is now shipping its first-ever combined WiMax Wi-Fi module for laptops. Likewise, four notebook makers - Acer, Asus, Lenovo, and Toshiba - announced laptops with the chips, available through Amazon.com and NewEgg.com. Other PC makers - Dell, Panasonic, Samsung, and Sony - said their notebooks set for release in 2009 will also support the WiMax/Wi-Fi chips.
Sprint also said it will be offering devices that can alternate between the 4G Xohm network and existing 3G EV-DO networks, which will be used to augment the 4G service while it's being built out. Sprint also plans to launch a dual-mode 3G/4G laptop air card by the end of the year.
There's still a lot of work to be done before the service is as widespread as WiFi. It's just been launched and there are a lot of holes to fill. But we can be somewhat patient - now that WiMax is finally here. Remember: It took a while for WiFi itself, which offers wireless coverage over a smaller geographic area, to expand into airport terminals, coffee shops and bookstores. Even then, laptops without built-in WiFi relied on wireless cards that plugged into the laptop to pick up the signal.
So, even though it's early, let's please welcome WiMax. We've been expecting you (for a long time now.)