Sprint Offers iPad WiMax Service

Overdrive, a Sprint mobile hotspot device, can connect up to five Wi-Fi-enabled devices to Sprint's 4G service, the carrier says.

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Sprint is trying to piggy-back on Apple's success with the iPad by making it easy to access Sprint's WiMax service via the slate computer.

The wireless carrier is offering an iPad case to anyone who buys Sprint's Overdrive, a mobile hotspot device. The free case includes a pouch for carrying the Overdrive, which can connect up to five Wi-Fi-enabled devices to Sprint's 4G service.

If the iPad user is in area where no WiMax service is available, then the Overdrive automatically switches to Sprint's 3G service. The latter feature is particularly important since Sprint's WiMax service is only available in about 30 cities today. The carrier plans to roll out the service to 14 additional cities in the coming months.

The Overdrive is roughly 3 inches square and weighs almost five ounces. Sprint sells the mobile hotspot for $100, with a mail-in rebate and a two-year service contract. The iPad case is roughly 8 by 10 inches and weighs 6.6 ounces.

In offering the Overdrive for to iPad users, Sprint hopes to circumvent AT&T, which is the 3G wireless carrier for the tablet computer. AT&T offers a month-to-month data plan, instead of a two-year commitment.

Apple released the iPad April 3 and sold more than 500,000 units the first week, according to the company. The current version is Wi-Fi only, with a 3G model set to start shipping in late April. However, iPad 3Gs pre-ordere won't ship until May 7.

Sprint introduced last month its first 3G/4G handset running Google's Android operating system. The EVO 4G, made by HTC, has a 4.3-inch LCD screen, an 8-megapixel flash camera and a 1.3-megapixel front-facing camera for video calls. The device is scheduled to be released in the summer.