Sprint Unveils 3G/4G Dual-Mode Modem Device

WiMax is a promising technology but currently only available in Baltimore. To buy time while Sprint helps develop a nationwide 4G WiMax network, the telecom carrier introduces a dual 3G/WiMax modem for customers to gain faster 4G speeds while in WiMax coverage area and using Sprint's 3G nationwide network to connect outside of coverage.

Sprint Nextel said Dec. 17 it is introducing a laptop modem that will operate on both Sprint's 4G WiMax service and the company's 3G cellular network. The country's first 3G/4G dual mode device will allow customers to use the increased speeds of WiMax while in WiMax coverage and to switch to the company's 3G network when out of 4G coverage.

Sprint introduced the nation's first WiMax network in Baltimore last October under Sprint's Xohm brand. Sprint has subsequently merged its WiMax operations with Clearwire, which is rolling out a WiMax network in Portland, Ore., and plans a nationwide WiMax network by 2010.

The Sprint 3G/4G USB Modem U300 is priced at $149.99 with a two-year subscriber agreement, after a $50 mail-in-rebate. Beginning Dec. 21, customers can purchase the USB data card via the Sprint direct business sales force, at most Baltimore-area Sprint stores and at select Baltimore-area retailers. Starting in January, the device will also be available in Baltimore-area Best Buy stores.

"Sprint intends to be the leader in 4G and bring the wireless Internet to life," Dan Hesse, Sprint CEO, said in a statement. "This first-of-its-kind device allows our customers to take the Internet with them essentially wherever they go by gaining enhanced speed and capability in 4G markets and the nationwide coverage of our 3G network across the rest of the country."

The Sprint dual mode USB modem will access mobile multimedia applications at average downlink speeds of 2-4 Mbps within the Baltimore Sprint 4G service areas. Where Sprint 4G service has yet to launch, the dual-mode device will operate on the Sprint Mobile broadband 3G network at average downlink speeds of 600 Kbps - 1.4 Mbps.

A Sprint device connection manager recognizes and connects to the fastest connection available.

"The availability of this first dual-mode mobile broadband device further demonstrates Sprint's leadership in 3G and 4G services," said Todd Rowley, vice president of Sprint 4G. "Our future device portfolio of single-mode 4G devices, embedded 4G laptops and dual-mode 3G/4G devices will continue to demonstrate our commitment to WiMax."

Clearwire and Sprint Nextel Dec. 1 formally closed their $14.5 billion merger deal to combine the two carriers' 4G wireless Internet businesses into a nationwide WiMax network. The deal also includes a combined $3.2 billion investment by Comcast, Intel, Time Warner Cable, Google and Bright House Networks.

To complete the merger, Sprint Nextel turned over its entire 2.5 GHz spectrum holdings and its WiMax-related assets, including its Xohm division, to Clearwire, an investment valued at $7.4 billion. The Clearwire investment is valued at approximately $3.9 billion. The deal cleared FCC (Federal Communications Commission) regulatory approval in November.