There are two camps in the upcoming 4G wars in the United States. Right now, the only 4G network that is commercially available comes from Sprint and Clearwire. Other major producers are testing competing 4G networks around the country and hope to start limited rollouts late in 2010.
Sprint and Clearwire backed WiMAX for their 4G technology while all other major providers like AT&T and Verizon are backing LTE for 4G. The only benefit of WiMAX over LTE is that WiMAX was faster to market. Sprint and Clearwire offer WiMAX in a number of large cities around the country and the two companies are rolling out coverage to more cities all the time.
Five new WiMAX markets came online in November 2009 including Chicago, Dallas-Fort Worth, and three North Carolina markets. The big catch so far for the 4G covered areas is that connectivity has been limited to USB modems for computers and no mobile phone supporting 4G have been offered. Sprint has said the devices were coming, but so far, none have materialized.
Forbes reports that Sprint has now announced new 4G compatible handsets will be coming sooner than previously believed. The new handsets are said to be launching in the first half of 2010, which is a few months earlier than previously expected. The handsets will be dual-mode phones capable of operating on the limited availability 4G network and on the Sprint 3G network in other areas.
Sprint is counting on the new 4G phones to help it grow and gain on major rivals like Verizon. Sprint has been hemorrhaging subscribers badly and losing market share to both AT&T and Verizon as customers leave the Sprint network in droves. Sprint CEO Dan Hesse says that 2010 is the year of 4G and Sprint is working with manufactures to embed 4G into a number of devices.
There is no word at this time what company will be making 4G handsets for Sprint.