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Sprint Says WiMax Commercial Launch Will be Delayed

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LAS VEGAS (Dow Jones) Sprint Nextel will delay the commercial launch of its Xohm WiMax service until later in the year, a spokesman said Wednesday.

The Overland Park, Kan., carrier was originally scheduled to launch the service this month. But it will come later this year, said spokesman James Fisher. It's the latest in a series of setbacks for the troubled company.

Chatter at the CTIA Wireless trade show here suggests it will occur in the summer.

"The delay of Xohm's commercial launch is a major blow for Sprint, and the storm clouds are only getting darker over the entire WiMax sector," said Clint Wheelock, chief research officer for ABI Research.

Sprint had already disappointed many by failing to provide more details on WiMax during the show. Expectations were high for Chief Executive Dan Hesse to make a big splash, but only managed a new phone.

Sprint has been in talks with the cable companies to provide additional funding for the rollout and create a separate company with Clearwire, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Sprint's WiMax project has been a source of criticism from some on Wall Street, who would prefer the company focus on the core cellular business.

It comes at a time when industry experts debate the longevity of WiMax, especially as many of the other carriers back a rival fourth-generation technology called Long-Term Evolution.

"I'm still confident that WiMax will move forward in a significant way, but its edge over competing 4G networks is getting duller all the time," Wheelock said.

Sprint currently has had soft launches in Chicago, D.C., and Baltimore, which Fisher said were going well.

"We want to make sure the launch meets our expectation," Fisher said.

He added the delay wasn't an issue with technology.

By Roger Cheng, Dow Jones Newswires; 201-938-2020

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

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