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Summary:

Sprint will reportedly bring a WiMAX handset to market in the first half of this year, several months earlier than had been expected. But given its small WiMAX footprint and the technical issues that must be overcome, what’s the rush?

Sprint will launch its fist WiMAX-enabled handset in the first half of this year, several months earlier than expected, according to a Forbes story this morning — an HTC Supersonic, a dual-mode, Android-enabled device that boasts a 4.3-inch LCD display and Wi-Fi connectivity. But does Sprint really need a WiMAX phone yet?

The phone will reportedly switch automatically switch between Sprint’s 3G EV-DO network and the 4G infrastructure it’s building with Clearwire, enabling it to take advantage of average download speeds of 3-6 Mbps. But that’s only when it can find a WiMAX network, which covers some 10 percent of the U.S. population and doesn’t yet include cities such as New York, San Francisco and Washington.

Just as importantly, the industry has yet to agree on a handover for voice between 3G and WiMAX which — like LTE — is all-IP. Depending on how Sprint decides to handle voice on its WiMAX network, folks making a call on its WiMAX phone could find themselves unable to use the 4G data services while on a call. Sprint will obviously need to produce phones that leverage WiMAX as it builds out its new footprint and as the industry addresses the technical problems involved in moving to 4G from 3G. But rushing a WiMAX phone to market in the next few months doesn’t seem to make much sense.

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Image courtesy Flickr user Oberazzi.

  1. Not sure I follow the logic here — what doesn’t make sense about having additional devices for markets you have already launched, especially when they can be used right now (over 3G) in markets that don’t yet have WiMAX?

    Most of the 4G “phones” coming out in the next two-three years are going to use 3G for voice anyway, whether they are WiMAX or LTE — and why not, since that’s what the 3G networks are good for?

    In terms of surfing while you talk — does anybody really need that functionality, other than has-been actors in commercials?

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  2. They are rushing because T-Mobile will have a “4G” handset soon.

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  3. Have to agree with Paul here — hard to see much wrong with launching a phone for a network that’s already up and running.

    The linked article on “the industry has yet to agree on a handover for voice between 3G and WiMAX” doesn’t mention WiMAX, just LTE… and in any case, handover is probably irrelevant as the device will only use the CDMA 3G/2G network for voice.

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  4. If the markets are launched, and the handset is ready, how is it rushing, exactly? Will it be rushing in “x” months when Verizon has 10 cities lit by LTE and offers a 3G/4G handset?

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  5. Yup, just like , Colin Gibbs rushed this article
    “The phone will reportedly switch automatically switch between Sprint’s 3G EV-DO network and the 4G infrastructure”.

    I totally disagree with this, why not have a phone if you can tap into WiMAX network. Its still not know whether we can do voice and data simultaneously. But why is it a bad idea to get a 4.3 inch screen phone ?

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  6. Anyone concerned over the GQ article stating that WiMAX is going to kill us? http://www.gq.com/cars-gear/gear-and-gadgets/201002/warning-cell-phone-radiation

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  7. Oooh, scary story, with lots of conjecture (that would apply equally to other still in the lap technologies). Are you perhaps on the LTE bandwagon?

    As for the comment question above about whether anyone is concerned that WiMax is going to kill us? Of course there is, there always is, from the same people who think that grapes and tuna and bottled water are going to kill us.

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    1. No bandwagon just curious about people’s reaction to the article.

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      1. Okay, so let’s play a little thought experiment…

        Let’s assume that EM radiation (electricity and radio waves) really do cause cancer in some percentage of the population. Let’s also assume that it has been doing so for quite awhile now, since pervasive radio and electricity has been around for quite awhile now. Now, some percentage of the pre-EM society population probably had no resistance to EM exposure and some percent probably was naturally resistant. Over time (the last century), through natural selection, those percentages have undoubtedly been shifting in favor of those who are naturally resistant to EM exposure. As well, over the last century we have made medical advances in treating a great many varieties of cancers, some of which may be caused by EM exposure. We’ve also learned something about shielding EM radiation, although probably not nearly enough.

        So, what we see is, there are a lot of variables, and they are shifting over time, but this is clear: the population is becoming more EM resistant and science is becoming more adept at treating EM-triggered cancers and in controlling EM exposure. So, what we really have to ask ourselves is this: Are we really willing to give up the Internet, computers, CRT, MRIs, X-rays, cellphones, cordless phones, television, radio, long-distance communication generally microwaves, toasters, heating, light bulbs and electricity generally in order to element a small percentage risk that is already shrinking due to natural selection and scientific advancement?

        It is a rough call, especially if it is you, or your kid with the tumor, but is going back to pre-EM society really the answer? I think not. A better choice would be to remove the limited liability laws that allow corporations to disregard risk when they are producing these products. If corporations were striped of their special privileges and made to account the same as any other business, or person, for their actions, they would undoubtedly find a solution for EM overflow, and in fairly short order.

        Corporatism and the corporate-state that protects it is what allows situations like this to develop. If we were to strip government of the power to protect business, situations like this would diminish, if not resolve altogether. If a comparable wall of separation existed between commerce and government as now exists between religion and government, we would be living in a decidedly better world — think it though.

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  9. I personally think this is a very illogical question. The towers are there already, the logical thing to do is rush a phone to market to take advantage of it. Why wouldn’t you? From the last I read 30 million people could be on the Wimax network. Thats a lot of people. I heard Seattle was going through testing, I live in Seattle. Rush that phone! Don’t listen to this guy! This all sounds like anti-Sprint speech to me.

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