One senior manager of handset marketing at Sprint Nextel, Trevor Van Norman, estimates he has helped launch 150 different phones over six years, and this week helped launch the WiMax-capable HTC EVO 4G , a smartphone seen as a boon for Sprint's WiMax service now in 27 cities and operated by Clearwire.
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Having the first WiMax-capable phone on the market will help the WiMax cause , even as some analysts predict only a minor market share for WiMax compared with LTE by 2014, he told Computerworld .
"Having the [HTC EVO 4G] brings the [WiMax] message home," Van Norman said. Analysis firm Infonetics recently gave WiMax only a 3 percent U.S. market share in 2014, probably because essentially only one company, Sprint, will offer WiMax.
By comparison, LTE will be offered by Verizon Wireless, AT&T and eventually T-Mobile USA, he noted.
Just about everybody agrees LTE subscribers will be much bigger than WiMax, although several analysts surveyed this week said they believe WiMax will grow to a larger share than 3 percent by 2014.
Sprint CEO Dan Hesse told a large CTIA audience this week that "LTE will be the larger of the two 4G standards," but noted that Sprint couldn't wait on LTE technology when it had "proven, tried and true" WiMax technology to run over Sprint's readily available spectrum.
Even with a minor share in the market, Sprint sees WiMax as vital to its future, and has even tied its compensation package to growth in 4G subscribers, Van Norman said.
"True, they are small financial rewards, just drinking money," Van Norman explained. "But our executives have committed to 4G." Sprint is offering WiMax to markets with 30 million people and expects to reach 120 million by year's end.
Hesse highlighted the value of a WiMax device to the medical profession, since it serves as a Wi-Fi hot spot to eight other devices, and could be used by a home visitation nurse who might collect data over Wi-Fi from various medical devices. "All kinds of medical devices could connect," he said.
One concern with the new HTC EVO 4G smartphone is how it will perform in wireless networks where WiMax is not available. Van Norman said that when WiMax is not there, the EVO will function over Sprint's EVDO 3G network.
Van Norman did say there might be a two or three second disruption for a bandwidth intense application such as streaming video when the phone switches from 4G to 3G.