Sprint plans to release its 4G smartphone in the first half of 2010, Paget Alves, Sprint's president of business markets, reportedly told Forbes.
While Sprint has released several backward-compatible accessories - such as its 3G/4G U301 dongle, and 3G/4G Mobile Hotspot, both of which can access 4G networks but switch to Sprint's 3G networks when 4G isn't available - the phone would be Sprint's first.
"[Alves] says the company views 4G as a multibillion-dollar business opportunity. Health care, transportation, manufacturing, media and retail companies are already using 4G to train and communicate with employees," Forbes reported on Feb. 18. "Sprint says 4G technology can be up to 10 times faster than 3G, making it a good fit for bandwidth-intensive applications like streaming video, transmitting medical images and e-mailing training manuals."
Alves wouldn't offer details regarding the phone, but rumors suggest a touch-screen device running Google's Android operating system, and Sprint executives have confirmed discussing a 4G smartphone with Samsung. Forbes reports that HTC is the favored choice.
As of December, Sprint, with Clearwire, which it owns the majority share of, was offering 4G WiMax service in 27 U.S. markets, covering approximately 30 million people.
On Feb. 15, the WiMax Forum predicted that WiMax, which through service providers worldwide currently covers 620 million people across 147 countries, will cover more than 1 billion people by the end of 2011.
"Clearwire plans to continue rolling out our 4G network to additional markets in 2010 with the launch of service in several large metro areas, including New York, Houston and the San Francisco Bay area - ultimately reaching up to 120 million people by the end of 2010," Ali Tabassi, a senior vice president at Clearwire and a member of the WiMax Forum, said in a statement.
Sprint competitors AT&T and Verizon are instead focused on the competing 4G technology, LTE (Long Term Evolution), with Verizon planning to roll out its first networks late this year and AT&T planning to wait until 2011.
In December, European carrier TeliaSonera, with equipment partner Ericsson, rolled out the world's first LTE network in downtown Stockholm, Sweden.
By the end of 2010, Clearwire has said it expects to offer WiMax service in 80 markets, covering up to 120 million people.