Sprint debuts Overdrive, mobile WiMAX hotspot

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LAS VEGAS--Sprint Nextel used the Consumer Electronics Show here to unveil its new Overdrive 3G/4G Mobile Hotspot device, built by Sierra Wireless, which connects to Clearwire's mobile WiMAX network and broadcasts a WiFi hotspot for up to five devices. The device is similar to Novatel's MiFi device, which relies on 3G for backhaul.

sprint overdrive mobile wimax hotspotInterestingly, Sprint called out a range of big guns to hype its latest 4G effort, including Best Buy CEO Brian Dunn, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, comedian Frank Caliendo and celebrity chef Mario Batali (who cooked food for attendees). Caliendo served as a host to the announcement, while Dunn and Ballmer used their respective five minutes in the spotlight to trumpet the benefits of 4G mobile WiMAX speeds.

"You can use Overdrive as your primary Internet connection," Ballmer said, noting it would provide connectivity through WiFi for Microsoft's Zune media player. "It's kind of a brilliant little product, when you get right down to it."

Best Buy's Dunn said the retail chain would offer the Overdrive in 10 Clearwire WiMAX markets, which includes 182 Best Buy stores.

Sprint's CEO Dan Hesse was also on hand to hype the gadget.

"4G is about connected mobility," Hesse explained.

microsoft steve ballmer sprint overdrive

In a press release announcing the device, Sprint said the Overdrive can essentially replace a wired home Internet connection. "Through a single connection, you can bypass your cable provider and stream HD movies from content distribution providers (such as Netflix, Amazon and Blockbuster) right to your TV; connect your Xbox 360 and game real-time with someone located across the globe; move pictures wirelessly from your camera to a digital picture frame and surf the Web on your laptop while streaming Pandora," the company said.

Beginning on Jan. 10, customers will be able to purchase Overdrive 3G/4G Mobile Hotspot from Sprint for $99.99 (excluding taxes) after a $50 mail-in-rebate with a two-year service agreement.

The announcement does not come as a total surprise; Sprint had been rumored to be gearing for an announcement of a WiMAX hotspot product.

Sprint resells Clearwire's mobile WiMAX service under the "Sprint 4G" moniker; Sprint is the majority owner of Clearwire.

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