Oh hi, 4G. Despite already having been live for over a month now, Clearwire has just made WiMAX’s presence in Atlanta, Georgia official. One of over 15 cities that are covered or will be covered between now and the end of 2010, Atlanta might be considered the biggest launch to date. With 1,200 square miles and approximately 3 million people now covered in Atlanta, the city is also a major hub for air travel in the US. In fact, this WiMAX launch is made even more significant by the fact Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport is constantly plagued with massive delays. Got eight hours before your connecting flight will actually take off and don’t feel like rewarding the airport by paying for Wi-Fi while it makes you wait? WiMAX subscribers are good to go. As far as pricing goes, Atlanta lines up with other WiMAX-covered territories; home Internet plans start at $20 per month, mobile plans start at $40 per month and day passes are available for $10.
With rumors of a Sprint-bound tri-mode CDMA/WiFi/WiMAX handset gaining traction, we thought it might be a good time to talk about what is as opposed to what could be. Sure, a tri-mode handset would be amazing but without official word from Sprint it’s still just speculation. 3G is so 2000 and late, Sprint is the only carrier with a live 4G network here in the US… So what’s up? Hit the jump for a full assessment of where Sprint 4G is at right now and where it’s confirmed to be going in the near future.
The following markets are live or will be live before 2009 is out, according to Sprint (alphabetical order):
- Dallas/Ft. Worth
- Las Vegas
At least the following markets will launch in 2010, according to Sprint:
- New York
- Washington, DC
- San Francisco Bay Area
As far as hardware goes, the dual mode U300 is currently available and it supports both 3G and 4G. Other devices Sprint has stated will reach market throughout 2009 and 2010 include a single-mode 4G data card, embedded laptops, “Small-office-home-office devices”, 4G personal hotspot devices and a 4G phone. In other words, things have most definitely been slow going but Sprint finally appears to be kicking things into high gear. In fact, the company is poised to have a substantial 4G network in place with a respectable portfolio of devices before the competition even gets its feet off the ground. 4G personal hotspot? Yes, please.
Many people have wondered aloud what Sprint’s next big move might be after the Pre jumps off this weekend. The Palm Eos? Perhaps, but it looks like the struggling carrier might have something even more exciting in its bag within the next year or so. Market analysis firm SmarTrend is reporting that an unnamed Sprint spokesperson revealed a tri-mode handset coming down the pipeline sometime in 2009/2010. Said phone will be sporting CDMA, WiFi and WiMAX compatibility, which would provide a healthy mix of CDMA coverage and beastly data speeds where WiMAX is available. Analysts guess believe this upcoming tri-mode beast may be Android-powered, though we have yet to see anything substantiate that claim. As Sprint continues to expand WiMAX coverage and tout “the first wireless 4G network” in commercials, it would indeed be nice to see a handset emerge with WiMAX compatibility before the year is out. We shall see.
WiMax is still around and kickin’, believe it or not, and Clear (formerly Clearwire, formerly Xohm) is planning to expand its networks soon. As such, it only makes sense that manufacturers are gearing up for the US expansion with some WiMAX devices, right? Samsung has dropped a few snippets of information on its SWD-M100 Mondi, which the company claims is the first handheld WiMAX device for the States. Burn. Judging by the popularity, or lack thereof, of the Nokia Internet tablet, we’re not quite sure how well this slider device will do or how Sammy plans to market it. We’ll have to wait and see, but if your 3G device isn’t cutting it for your Internet addiction, this device packs a slide-out QWERTY keyboard, a D-Pad and a touchscreen. No official announcement or pricing on this device but we’re not exactly on the edge of our seats for this one.
Well folks, it was fun while it lasted — sort of. Back in January Nokia swiftly and quietly pulled the plug on its N810 WiMAX Edition, one of the first portable WiMAX devices to reach market. Speculation pointed to the ridiculously slow roll out of the US WiMAX network as one of the main factors behind the decision, though Nokia made no public statement regarding the matter. This left many wondering if the company had abandoned WiMAX development altogether and recent statements from a Nokia executive might suggest the Finnish manufacturer and WiMAX just aren’t going to happen. Specifically, Ã¢â‚¬Å“WiMAX has some place in the market, but we do believe itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a niche play,Ã¢â‚¬Â doesn’t exactly leave much open to interpretation. Instead, Nokia is looking at LTE as its future high-speed data technology of choice and seemingly already has compatible devices in the works. In fact, senior manager of technology marketing at Nokia James Harper stated that Nokia intends to release LTE devices as soon as next year. Mobile phones? Internet Tablets? Laptops perhaps? Your guess is as good as ours for the time being. As for Sprint and Clearwire, it’s safe to say that they will be looking elsewhere for WiMAX device partners because Nokia’s ship has sailed.
Earlier this month, Nokia quietly discontinued production of its N810 WiMAX Edition internet tablet and recalled unsold units from distribution partners. The move was a big one where Sprint and Clearwire are concerned as despite slow sales, the N810 WiMAX Edition was one of the most widely available mobile devices beyond laptop cards to tout WiMAX compatibility. While Clearwire continues to push forward with its WiMAX roll out, another blow came Thursday from Nortel as the company announced it would be discontinuing its mobile WiMAX business and ending its agreement with Alvarion Ltd. Richard Lowe, President of Carrier Networks at Nortel had this to say:
We are taking rapid action to narrow our strategic focus to areas where we can drive maximum return on investment. We will work closely with Alvarion to transition our mobile WiMAX customers to them and assure customers that they will continue to benefit from leading-edge technology and high-quality service. Our continued success in the wireless business requires us to focus our energy on opportunities with long-standing customers. This will position Nortel more effectively to capitalize on future resurgence of carrier spend levels and drive value to the business.
The move is hardly a surprising one – Nortel recently turned the page on a poor 2008 and is scrambling along with the rest of the corporate world to stay afloat during harsh economic times. Shedding its WiMAX business is a step that will help the company reduce costs and focus on business with a more immediate return. As for Alvarion and its WiMAX customers, the company is working overtime to ensure the negative impact is minimal.