Wireless Internet radio

New people are discovering Internet radio everyday. But right now people have to think about how to connect, where to connect, or what to connect to in order to listen. When wireless access becomes easy and ubiquitous, Internet radio’s audience growth will really snowball and it will become a utility of everyday life – as broadcast radio is today.

A few recent announcements indicate that time is getting closer. Last week Sprint launched XOHM, their WiMax mobile broadband service, enabling people in Baltimore to have one internet connection that provides broadband service to their at-home modem as well as their laptop, pda, or whatever, wherever they are in the city. It’s like combining your cable or dsl account with a 3G broadband account.

Besides the fact that it’s more reliable than some other wifi networks, Sprint’s XOHM is revolutionary because it will not require dedicated equipment, as Verizon and AT&T do. According to ZDNet, “While the WiMAX network is very similar to the cellular network in its physical infrastructure, it was conceived from the ground up to be a pure IP network, built on open standards, and designed to be as open as the Internet itself. In that sense, WiMAX is simply a wireless on-ramp to the Internet.”

This is the kind of platform that will bring Internet radio to life. While it’s exciting that Pandora, Clear Channel, and lots of others are available now on IPhone, that’s still one device and AT&T customers only. XOHM opens that up to all devices, and provides a platform for invention of endless additional ways to use a ubiquitous broadband connection.

Right now it’s only in Baltimore, but next up are DC and Chicago. Sprint is merging XOHM with Clearwire to create a new WiMAX company, with backing from Intel, Google, Comcast. Philadelphia, Dallas/Fort Worth, Boston, and Providence, Portland, Atlanta, Las Vegas, and Grand Rapids are on the list of markets to roll out. 

The FCC is also working on a plan to cultivate free national wireless Internet service. According to the Wall Street Journal,  a report clearing the way for the FCC to move forward with a plan to auction off airwaves to a bidder who agrees to offer free, national wireless Internet service has been released. The FCC could begin auctioning off airwaves in early-to-mid 2009. It’s likely the service would be basic, with fees for broadband enhancements.

Open platforms where it’s easy to listen are exactly what listeners want. As far as Internet radio is concerned, it’s all good.





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