Sprint to Launch First 4G Phone in Summer

Sprint said it will sell a smartphone that runs on its super-fast fourth-generation network as soon as this summer, as part of a plan to win back customers by separating itself from rival carriers.

The Overland Park, Kan.-based company said the new phone will be able to send data up to 10 times faster than current networks by using 4G technology known as WiMax. It already sells WiMax products such as a portable hotspot router that creates a mobile Wi-Fi cloud and high-speed USB modems.

Coverage is still spotty in urban areas where 4G is available, so the new handset will be compatible with both WiMax and cellular technology.

Clearwire, in which Sprint owns majority interest, has slowly rolled out the network in a few dozen cities — such as Atlanta, Baltimore, Charlotte, Chicago, Dallas, Las Vegas, Philadelphia, Portland and Seattle. It said it plans to expand service to more locations — including Boston, Houston, New York, San Francisco and Washington, D.C. — later this year.

Paget Alves, Sprint’s head of business markets, said he sees WiMax as a multi-billion dollar opportunity. Several companies and government agencies are using it to deliver wireless service for their products — to track gadgets, transmit medical images and even download ebooks.

Sprint is betting that the new smartphones will give it a head start over rival Verizon, which just started testing its own 4G network using a competing standard called Long-Term Evolution. AT&T and T-Mobile are still planning their LTE networks.

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