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Eric Zeman
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CES 2011 Preview: Tablets, Smartphones, And More

The electronics industry is gearing up for the 2011 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, which kicks off January 6. The leading vendors are expected to introduce a host of eye-catching new offerings. Here's what InformationWeek anticipates will be unveiled at the show.

Novatel Wireless MiFi 2372
(click image for larger view)
MiFi Hotspot

True 4G Battle Begins

Verizon Wireless is preparing an onslaught of new Long Term Evolution products for CES 2011. At launch in early December, Verizon's LTE network could only be used with two devices -- USB dongles made by LG and Pantech. I'd expect to see more dongles, perhaps a MiFi-like mobile hotspot creator, and definitely a tablet and/or smartphone. Expect to see other form factors as well, such as connected-home type items, including televisions, picture frames, and other appliances.

These devices won't necessarily be available right away, but they'll set the stage for what 4G can do. Verizon will use CES to more broadly demonstrate all that its LTE network can handle with respect to mobile broadband applications. Verizon will also likely detail the future expansion of its LTE network, including coverage. Verizon's press conference is being held Thursday.

T-Mobile also has a press conference on deck for CES, but hasn't provided hints about what the press conference will reveal. The company has already been making noise about upgrading its HSPA+ network from 21Mbps theoretical max downloads to 42Mbps max downloads. It says New York City will be the first to have 42Mbps HSPA+ go live. Perhaps CES will be the stage T-Mobile uses to make its plans known. Either way, it will continue to market its HSPA+ network as 4G. T-Mobile's press conference is on Thursday. Sprint and AT&T haven't said much about plans for CES, but I'd be surprised if the companies were silent. They'll have to respond in some manner to what Verizon and T-Mobile are planning. AT&T has yet to share many details about its own LTE launch and has also been quiet about the nitty gritty of its HSPA+ network. AT&T and Sprint can't afford to sit on the 4G sidelines. They need to bring some more 4G (or at least, in AT&T's case, 3.5G) products to the market before they get lapped by the competition.

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