Sprint began mobile WiMAX service today in Baltimore, the first major city to host the Xohm network.

Tests had previously been conducted in Chicago. The next city on the schedule is Washington, D.C., to be followed by Boston, Philadelphia and Dallas.

Sprint is planning to merge Xohm with Clearwire, a deal financed in part by MSOs Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks, along with Google and Intel, all of which will end up holding a minority stake in the resulting company, which will keep the Clearwire name. The deal is currently awaiting regulatory approval.

Barry West, president of Sprint's Xohm business unit, was either setting a high bar for Xohm or engaging in some good old fashioned hucksterism with this quote: “This is truly an historic day with the birth of a completely new Internet-based business model that alters the dynamics of the traditional telecom industry.”

Xohm broadband service debuts with downstream speeds of 2- to 4 Mbps. WiMAX has a theoretical maximum of 70 Mbps, however.

From a customer standpoint, Sprint’s Xohm differs from most other broadband services (as West boasted) in that no long-term commitments or contracts are required, “day passes” will be available, a single monthly charge covers service for multiple WiMAX access devices, and Xohm broadband service is self-activated.

Also, Xohm mobile wireless service is based on an open Internet business model, in contrast to other carriers' wireless walled garden approach.

Connecting to Xohm broadband will require a new modem. The modems available today are Samsung Express air cards for $59.99 and ZyXEL modems for $79.99.

Sprint said that additional devices, including a ZTE USB modem, Intel Centrino 2 WiMAX notebook PCs and the Nokia N810 WiMAX Edition, are expected in market later this year.

Xohm said it continues to work with WiMAX ecosystem partners and others to incorporate WiMAX technology in a range of computing, portable multimedia, interactive, and other business and consumer electronic devices, including the availability of Xohm WiMAX in vehicles for navigation information, news and entertainment.

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