Over the past few months Sprint Nextel has started aggressively touting its 4G agenda as a wholesale partner of Clearwire's WiMAX network. The company offers WiMAX service in several markets, and plans to have service in 80 markets by year-end 2010.
Already Sprint is seeding the market with 4G products including a 3G/4G data card, a personal hotspot and a broadband router for enterprises. Additionally, we believe it may launch more devices during the 2010 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. The company is planning a big media/analyst event Jan. 6 that will feature Sprint Nextel CEO Dan Hesse, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer and Best Buy CEO Brian Dunn. Although we don't know what Sprint has planned, we suspect it may include the unveiling of a new 4G device.
Sprint has also brought in heavy-hitter Matt Carter to oversee its 4G unit starting Jan. 11. Carter currently heads up Sprint's prepaid unit Boost Mobile, and as president of Boost he was hailed for his astute marketing skills and ability to change people's perceptions of prepaid.
We think that as a wholesale partner (and majority owner) of Clearwire, Sprint is poised to cash in on the 4G business. However, we believe that its key to success will be in the launch of more WiMAX devices, particularly a WiMAX smartphone. Although Sprint has been cagey about when it will launch such a device, Barron's recently reported that Sprint will introduce one in "early 2010."