Sprint Debuts Dual CDMA/WiMax Modem

The 3G/4G USB Modem U300 for laptops will be available beginning this weekend in Sprint outlets in the Baltimore area.
For those of you out there who wondered what Sprint would do with two incompatible wireless networks -- WiMax and CDMA -- the company disclosed the answer Wednesday: a dual-mode modem for laptops that operates on both services.

The Sprint 3G/4G USB Modem U300 will be available beginning this weekend in Sprint outlets in the Baltimore area -- the only region that currently offers both networks. The plug-in device, made by Franklin Wireless of San Diego, will be available for $149 with a two-year agreement for wireless service. Sprint said it will charge $79.99 a month for the dual service, which is $20 more that its current charge for mobile broadband service.

"This first-of-its-kind device allows our customers to take the Internet with them essentially wherever they go by gaining enhanced speed and capability in 4G markets and the nationwide coverage of our 3G network across the rest of the country," Sprint CEO Dan Hesse said in a statement.

Sprint has a nationwide CDMA network in place and continues to upgrade it, because reception is spotty in some regions. The company has teamed up with Clearwire to roll out the wide area WiMax network. Baltimore is the sole area with both CDMA and WiMax, although Clearwire has announced that it will deploy WiMax in Portland, Ore., in early January. Sprint owns 51% of Clearwire.

Sprint, which didn't mention its Nextel unit in the announcement, indicated that more consumer access devices will be announced for both single-mode WiMax usage and dual-mode CDMA/WiMax usage. Todd Rowley, VP of Sprint 4G, said: "Our future device portfolio of single-mode 4G devices, embedded 4G laptops and dual-mode 3G/4G devices will continue to demonstrate our commitment to WiMax."

Intel, which pioneered the WiMax technology and has invested in Clearwire, has announced that it will supply WiMax components for use in laptops in much the same manner that it has been providing Wi-Fi chips in laptops for years. Other investors in Clearwire include Google, Comcast, and Time Warner. Clearwire has been installing fixed WiMax in selected U.S. and European cities and is moving to upgrade the existing fixed service to mobile WiMax. Baltimore utilizes mobile WiMax and in addition a few cities, primarily in rural areas in the United States, are covered by mobile WiMax provided by smaller service providers.

Sprint said the dual-mode modem will be offered by Best Buy Baltimore-area stores in January.

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