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Sprint's WiMax Plans Include Gadgets

The company will light up 4G networks in places like Atlanta, Charlotte, Chicago, and Las Vegas by the end of the year.

Sprint on Wednesday outlined its plan for WiMax services and equipment.

WiMax is a next-generation mobile broadband technology that has a theoretical limit of 75 Mbps. While Sprint's real-world 4G networks are offering peak download speeds of up to 12 Mbps, this is three to five times the data speeds of current 3G networks from any mobile operator.

Sprint currently offers 4G services in Baltimore, but it plans to expand that to Atlanta; Charlotte, N.C.; Chicago; Dallas; Fort Worth, Texas; Honolulu; Las Vegas; Philadelphia; Portland, Ore.; and Seattle by the end of the year. It didn't detail the order of deployment, but many industry watchers expect Chicago's network to be lit up next.

Not surprisingly, Sprint's plans to sell WiMax service lines up identically with Clearwire's WiMax deployment schedule. Clearwire, which already has 4G networks in Baltimore and Portland, Ore., will sell WiMax services to the likes of Sprint and Comcast, as well as offer commercial mobile broadband access.

Over the next two years, the third-largest U.S. carrier said it would be bringing a 4G data card, embedded laptops, small-office WiMax modems, and a cell phone capable of accessing 3G and WiMax networks. The company already has introduced a dual-mode modem for laptops that lets users access Sprint's CDMA and WiMax networks in Baltimore.

Sprint is pushing to expand its 4G services before its rivals get going with networks based on Long Term Evolution technology. LTE offers a higher theoretical speed than WiMax, and more wireless carriers around the world are supporting it. WiMax was thought to have a sizable time-to-market advantage over its 4G rival, but Verizon Wireless recently said it would deploy an LTE network in 25 to 30 markets by the end of 2010.

LTE vs. WiMax won't be the typical winner-take-all showdown. Learn what each brings to the race (registration required).

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