Quest for 4G Gets Murkier


The news that the Sprint (s s) 4G network was turned on in Houston got me excited with the thought of upgrading from a mere 3G solution. I considered an Overdrive modem with Sprint to get me some 4G to share with my mobile gear. I was about to pull the trigger on the Overdrive when I started seeing that many were having problems with the device. I cooled my heels on the idea and considered waiting for Sprint to release the HTC EVO phone this summer. Unfortunately a recent admission by HTC has left me thinking this isn’t the way to go either.

The Sprint EVO from HTC is going to be the most powerful Android (s goog) phone when it hits this summer. It has hardware components second to none, and when you throw 4G into the mix it is easily the phone to beat. To take advantage of the 4G connectivity, Sprint and HTC are putting a mobile hotspot solution on the EVO. This turns the EVO into an Overdrive-like 4G router that can share the 4G connection with up to 8 other devices. It uses the phone’s Wi-Fi connectivity to dish the 4G out for use with other gadgets.

This sounds like the perfect solution as it is all done on the phone which is already in the pocket. No need to bring a separate gadget to provide the mobile broadband connection. As compelling as this sounded, I was leaning away from this solution, as I am concerned that sharing the 4G will rapidly drain the phone battery. That got me considering the Overdrive option in the first place instead of the EVO. The problems with the Overdrive, however, brought me back to consider the EVO.

I was just about to settle on the HTC EVO for my 4G connectivity when word appeared that has stopped me yet again. It seems that HTC has acknowledged that the EVO will not be able to be used for data and voice calls at the same time. The company admits it’s not a hardware limitation, but doesn’t elaborate on why this won’t be possible. They don’t rule out adding the ability in the future, but state at launch the phone will not be able to do data and voice simultaneously.

AT&T (s t) must be chuckling at this, given its commercials dissing Verizon (s vz) for the same limitation. I don’t find it too funny because it’s a deal breaker for me. I can’t have my phone unavailable for hours at a time when I use the 4G mobile hotspot capability on the phone. Battery concerns aside, my phone is important and must be ready to use no matter what. I’m not willing to keep dropping data connectivity to answer a call.

Now I am considering my options once again. I am leaning toward taking my chances with the Overdrive modem with Sprint. While some report problems with them, others are telling me theirs works fine. The call for speedy 4G connectivity may win me over in the end.

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I have Clear here in San Antonio, both for my Home Internet and my Mobile. For mobile use with my iPhone I use a Cradlepoint PHS-300 with a Tekkeon battery that clips onto it for a full-day of run, and then plug in my Clear 4G USB stick. Works very well, and if I weren’t under contract to AT&T would be tempted to use WiFi only as my cell plan.


I trialed the overdrive in Dallas/Fort Worth. One thing I haven’t read anywhere is that the 4G WIMAX doesn’t work well when you’re moving. I spend a lot of time in the back seat with someone else driving. My regular 3G CDMA coverage is great for that and never drops. The 4G service drops all the time while I’m moving. No there is no seamless switchover between 4G and 3G; you’re looking 1-2 minutes of wait time and your vpn connection will drop. You’ll spend so much time connecting and disconnecting on your average trip that it’s not worth it so if connectivity while driving is important – stay away from the Sprint/Clear Wimax. Also take a look at recent coverage maps. Service is extremely spotty. I think that’s why the clear service is cheaper than the sprint service with EVDO backup. Best I could do with the overdrive in the car was to keep it on EVDO all the time, but then my existing MiFi was much better for this; it starts up much faster than the Overdrive which takes a minute to “boot up”. I was really disappointed with the Sprint 4G service. Also when I did get a connection I only got 1-2 Mpbs upstream and maybe 200kbs downstream. Hard to tell the difference from CDMA.

Michael Hunter

Couldn’t you just use google voice to make the switch between voip and standard cell seemless even if sprint doesn’t make that work for you?



I’m regularly on a conference call where I need to be VPNed into work using my G1. I’m not much help on those calls unless I can pull up data and connect to terminal sessions. I know few people need that situation, but its a great example of when its needed. It does use a lot of battery life though.


Your ignoring the fact that the phone CAN make and receive calls. it just makes a momentary lapse in the data stream. Surely you can go 5 minutes without data while on a call?


@ Jon –

Sprint has clarified the simultaneous voice/data situation on their Twitter feed:

Voice + 3G = No
Voice + Wifi = YES
Voice + 4G = Maybe (currently testing)


I was so excited and nearly already made up my mind for leaving T-mobile to get the Evo. What is a deal breaker for me is the fact that I’m totally used to having voice and data simultaneously. I even held off on getting the Nexus One, or the HD2 because I knew there would be a better phone coming out. I could get the HD2 but the whole issue with windows mobile is another story in itself, I like android I have used all of the phone OS’s that are out there but android is what I prefer.I really don’t know what to do i want the Evo but if it cant handle voice and data at the same time then I highly doubt I’ll waste my time with it.



Your “opinion” does not matter, the facts are, Sprint is currently testing simultaneous voice/data, The EVO will have that capability. Sprint released an official twitter confirming this.


The phone will not be able to do data and voice simultaneously, but it will be able to do voice over IP and data simultaneously. I think this is how 4G works.


As Chris said, you can do the Clear branded mobile & get a Cradlepoint to give it MiFI-like functionality. A single Clear service (don’t need 2 necessarily) is $40/mo on contract.

I’m with a Clear sales agent company and just got our demo unit activated, we’re seeing averages of 4M down and 400-500K up in our office (Galleria area, 12th floor, unit by window on side of the building farthest from the nearest 4G tower). They’ve got towers scheduled to go live all around us, so I’m hopeful that will get better.

Their roadmap is agressive, and I’m interested in seeing how the EVO will work out for Sprint. Hesse’s already said the future is in the data, not the voice traffic. Now where’s that 250 minute, unlimited 4G data & SMS plan for $40/month??? :)


On Sprint’s 3G CDMA phones the data connection is paused when a voice call comes in; it’s pretty workable and they’ll probably do the same on the EVO.


This bears repeating. Using the internet does not direct your calls automatically to voicemail. The calls come in and the internet connection pauses.

Dave Zatz

I rarely use my iPhone as a phone. It’s 90% or more a data device. So it’s not a prob for me! Not that I’ll wait for the EVO. Will most likely leave AT&T as soon as the Sprint Nexus One arrives.

Chris King

James –

How about just getting Clear 4G? You can sign-up online for a two USB modem plan for $50/mo., completely uncapped for both data and throughput. The USB modems cost $59/ea, and they work great in any of the 4G-capable Cradlepoint routers, which is all of them except for the CTR350 and the v1 hardware revision of the PHS300.

If Clear is in Houston, which they should be if Sprint is there, you’ll have the ability to have two separate USB devices for the price of one Overdrive per month, and there is no contract.

This is what I’m doing, and it works great with my Cradlepoints and will hold me over until the Overdrive issues are sorted out or until I get my EVO 4G this summer.

SuperPhone to MundanePhone

Man……..its tough being an early adopter!


Nothing to lose with trying the Overdrive. Sprint’s new complete satisfaction guarantee takes all the monetary risk out of giving it a try. Near as I can tell…in the first 30 days they will refund your purchase cost, activation fee and will not even charge you for the time you used their service. All you have to do is tell them why your unhappy and return the stuff. I say give it a ride!

Ellen Sweeney

Maybe now that Sprint has the 30 day return policy. You could test it out and if it doesn’t work out you could return it.


Yes James starting tomorrow like CTSLICK said you get full 30 days to try out and get money back if it doesn’t work out. I might try out the Overdrive myself. I was going to get the MiFi at Verizon.

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