Sprint (NYSE: S) Nextel may unveil the first 4G phone next week at the big CTIA wireless conference in Las Vegas.
The device, which is reportedly made by HTC and called ‘the Supersonic,’ will run on the company’s WiMax network, which is being built by Clearwire (NSDQ: CLWR), reports the Wall Street Journal, which quotes people familiar with the matter.
If the company does reveal a device, it will easily beat Verizon Wireless to the punch, which is not expected to have a 4G handset, running on its LTE network, until mid-2011.
On Wednesday, March 24, Sprint’s CEO Dan Hesse will keynote at the show. The WSJ said the device may be the highlight of Hesse’s presentation. The timing for an unveiling seems right. Previously, Clearwire said WiMax phones could be ready by the middle of this year.
Sprint made a big splash at CES in January, where it unveiled the Overdrive, a 3G and 4G device that allows people to connect to up to five devices at once over WiFi. The party, which feature Celebrity Chef Chef Mario Batali and Comedian Frank Caliendo, marked Sprint’s big coming out party for WiMax. For such a big event, many were expecting a phone at the time.
However, rolling out a phone will be much more difficult. The phone will still have to rely a lot on the 3G network because the 4G footprint is still relatively small and 4G networks are only for data — users will still need 3G to talk. Not to mention, the big disruptive opportunity for 4G is not voice plans — rather it’s providing high-speed connectivity with new business models. Expect Sprint to also roll out new data plans that may include tethering to a laptop or multiple devices with the purchase of a WiMax phone. The WiMax network offers capacity that today’s 3G networks don’t.