Sprint bets big on WiMax with launch of HTC Evo 4G phone

Sprint needs the new Android-based smartphone to push its WiMax technology, which the company says will reach 120 million users by year's end

LAS VEGAS -- Sprint Nextel launched its first WiMax-capable phone, the HTC Evo 4G, at the CTIA trade show Tuesday, and said its faster WiMax network will reach 120 million Americans by year's end.

Several analysts described the new Android-based phone, with its 1GHz Snapdragon processor and HD video-capable camera, as a device that Sprint needed in order to push its WiMax technology offer ahead. The 4.3-inch screen, with 480x800 resolution, will show movies and other videos with the help of a small kickstand that allows a user to set the phone on a table in a position for easy viewing.

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"Clearly, hot devices move markets," said Gene Signorini, an analyst at Yankee Group. In general, however, he said WiMax is a "big bet" for Sprint. "It's appropriate they are in Vegas for the Evo announcement. They are going all in for 4G."

Jack Gold, an analyst at J. Gold Associates, said he was not sure the Evo will make a large difference in how many users adopt WiMax, especially since it will depend on whether they have WiMax service nearby. The phone will work in 3G networks while not in 4G, Sprint said.

At least one analyst firm, Infonetics, has forecast that by 2014, WiMax will be used on only 3 percent of the market for high-speed wireless networks, but Sprint seems to be ignoring that prediction.

Gold said WiMax would gain greater market share by 2014, but that the competing LTE service by used by the majority of users in the U.S. by 2015.

Sprint named seven new cities, including Miami and Los Angeles, that will be added to its growing list of WiMax capable cities.

One feature that Sprint touted with the Evo is its ability to serve as a Wi-Fi hot spot, connecting to WiMax and then to as many as eight other devices. In a swipe at the iPhone 3G S, Sprint also showed how a video on an iPhone could be connected wirelessly to the Evo and shown in higher resolution than what's available on the iPhone.

Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed. His e-mail address is mhamblen@computerworld.com.

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This story, "Sprint bets big on WiMax with launch of HTC Evo 4G phone" was originally published by Computerworld.

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