Sprint Nextel
(S) is on the verge of revolutionizing the US smartphone marketplace as the operator has revealed its plans to introduce its first 4G handset at the CTIA wireless trade show on March 24, 2010, in Las Vegas.
The dual-mode (3G/4G capable) smartphone, called “HTC Supersonic”, will run using Google’s (GOOG) Android platform. The device, which is set to be the first 4G compatible phone in the US, has been reportedly included in Sprint’s handset inventory list.
Sprint offers its 4G service under the “Sprint 4G” brand leveraging the WiMax (a wireless broadband technology) network operated by Clearwire Corporation (CLWR) in which it holds a 51% stake. The network offers average download speeds of 3-6 megabits per second (Mbps) with peak speed exceeding 10 Mbps.  
HTC Supersonic (also dubbed HTC A9292 WiMax) features a 4.3-inch touchscreen display, a 5 megapixel camera, HTC Sense user interface, GPS and Qualcomm’s (QCOM) 1 gigabertz (GHz) Snapdragon processor. The device will be targeted at enterprise and government markets besides consumers.
Sprint leapfrogged over its larger US peers Verizon (VZ) and AT&T (T) by becoming the first carrier to deploy 4G services in the US, which was launched in Baltimore in October 2008. The company’s 4G services now cover 27 markets and 32 million people in the US and are expected to address 120 million people by 2010.
Following its 4G network launch, Sprint has introduced an array of 4G devices such as dual-mode modems, mobile hotspots and PC cards. The carrier launched a new dual-mode wireless router called “Overdrive” in January 2010 which enables users to seamlessly connect upto five Wi-Fi (wireless broadband) devices simultaneously to Sprint’s 4G network.
However, Sprint has been constantly under pressure as consumers increasingly clamor for a 4G compatible phone. HTC Supersonic, if launched as planned, will thus culminate the prolonged wait for a 4G handset. The much-awaited 4G phone will enable Sprint to boost its WiMax network as the device will foster the effective use of 4G bandwidth for data-rich applications.
Besides, it will offer Sprint a headstart over its bigger rivals Verizon and AT&T who are yet to launch their 4G network based on the Long-Term Evolution (LTE) standard. Verizon, the closest contender, is not expected to roll out a 4G phone until mid-2011.
Expansion of 4G services is vital to Sprint’s survival in the US wireless market given its continued market share losses to larger rivals. Sprint promises that 2010 will be the year of WiMax and HTC Supersonic will help the carrier to entice more users to its network.
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