Sprint’s New 3G/4G Device — Is it a Winner or a Loser?

Image Credit: Sprint

Updated: Sprint has launched its second combination device that supports both 3G and 4G networks — the U301. This USB device works on the new CLEAR WiMAX network, which is partially owned by Sprint, and rolls back to EVDO or 1xRTT when not in a WiMAX coverage area. That gives users the chance to experience an average download of 3-6 Mbps on WiMAX and around 1 Mbps on EVDO. The device is supported on Microsoft Windows 7, Vista and XP, as well as Mac OS X 10.5 and up. Retail price for the adapter is $349, but Sprint is offering a $299 instant rebate and $50 mail-in rebate, bringing the net hardware cost to zero. With 3G plans starting at $59.99 a month, the hybrid plan offers cheap coverage insurance for an additional $10 a month — $69 monthly gets you both 3G and 4G service. Keep in mind that you still only have 5 GB of data to chew through on both networks combined. Update: Sprint does offer unlimited usage of the 4G network while keeping the 5 GB monthly bandwidth cap on data accessed on the 3G network. (Thanks Rob!)

It all sounds good, so why might this one device be a “winner” and a “loser?” The U301 timing inadvertently corresponds with our GigaOm Pro Mobile Winners and Losers for 2009 report (subscription required). One of my chosen winners was the 3G market for several reasons — more consumers are using the service which was once a novelty, and it’s starting to appear in standalone devices. My peer, Colin Gibbs, put WiMAX on the “naughty” list, however. WiMAX, which is what Sprint is offering with the U301, hasn’t made the inroads many had hoped for in 2009, but there’s still hope for a comeback in 2010.

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