Sprint’s “Xohm” WiMAX mobile broadband offering – a promising alternative to landline access for enterprises – won’t be ready in time for its expected launch date this month. The rollout reportedly is rescheduled for sometime later this year.
Sprint had built anticipation for Xohm (pronounced “zoam”) by indicating it would price the service to compete with 3G data services, like EV-DO Rev. A, hinting that it would charge between $47 and $52 per month for unlimited data, says Kevin DiLallo, partner at Levine, Blaszak, Block & Boothby, in Washington, D.C. Sprint also is reportedly willing to dispense with minimum service periods and early termination fees.
With WiMAX services, enterprises are looking forward to accessing high-bandwidth services from a variety of fixed and mobile devices. However, Sprint reportedly has struggled to find landline facilities with enough capacity and speed to connect its towers to its network backbone.
The delay is the latest in a series of bad news for the Overland Park, Kan.-based carrier. Perhaps more troubling for enterprises is speculation that Sprint could be sold.
Sprint’s customer base dwarfs that of any second-tier carrier, making it an attractive target, says David Rohde, senior consultant at TechCaliber Consulting, in Washington, D.C. The national credit crunch is likely freezing any potential buyout, but when the market frees up again, a buyer would want to scoop Sprint up soon – within the next two years, Rohde believes – before that customer base drifts away.
Given that 80% of Sprint’s revenue and 100% of its image are built around wireless, enterprises should be concerned about what a buyer would do with Sprint’s wireline assets, Rohde advises. It’ll likely focus on making a profit on wireless, while potentially spinning off the wireline business to another carrier.
Negotiating Pros: Keep Inviting Sprint to Bid
But don’t let the dark clouds hanging over Sprint keep you from inviting the carrier to bid on providing your enterprise’s wireless or wireline services, DiLallo and Rohde agree.
Given that Verizon Wireless and AT&T Mobility price their wireless services almost identically, sending wireless bids to Sprint will discipline the two top players’ behavior and pricing during procurements, DiLallo says. Plus, Sprint offers some of the best rate plans on wireless voice and data, consistently pricing its services below AT&T Mobility and Verizon Wireless, he adds.
On the wireline side, AT&T and Verizon are offering competitive rates on unmanaged MPLS services in an effort to lock enterprises in with a technology they’ll be using for the next 10 years, Rohde says.
Meanwhile, however, Sprint doesn’t often submit bids for ordinary circuit-switched TDM voice at enterprises where it isn’t the incumbent. “At some point, we’re very concerned that not having a third carrier that is as active as the others in all the bids will create a bit of a problem,” Rohde says. “You always want to have a situation where there’s three or more players.” Also put bids out to Level 3 and Qwest for wireline services because it’s possible that one of these carriers could acquire Sprint’s customer base and catapult itself into the No. 3 spot, Rohde recommends. You’ll want to have a relationship with them when they do. (