Rumor Mill: Sprint's Boost and Virgin units to offer WiMAX

Sprint Nextel (NYSE:S) sub-brands Boost Mobile and Virgin Mobile USA may finally join the 4G marketing arena as they gain hand-me-down access to the WiMAX service Sprint is shifting from in order to launch LTE.

PocketNow and TechnoBuffalo are both reporting that the contract-free sub-brands are close to launching WiMAX-compatible devices. "After talking it up with a close source, it was revealed to us that Virgin Mobile USA is targeting a June release for its first step into the world of 4G," said TechnoBuffalo. Virgin is expected to offer some of Sprint's leftover WiMAX inventory of consumer devices, including the HTC Evo 3D, which Virgin will reportedly rename the Evo V 4G. Boost is also expected to follow suit with a similar strategy.

In December 2011, Sprint agreed to pay Clearwire (NASDAQ:CLWR) $926 million for unlimited access to the latter's WiMAX network for Sprint customers.

"We know there has been speculation about possible 4G offers on our no-contract brands," Sprint spokeswoman Jayne Wallace told FierceBroadbandWireless. "As you know, we don't comment on rumors and have not made any announcements to this effect at this point."

For now, Boost and Virgin are not expected to alter their pricing plans once they gain the WiMAX devices, with both likely continuing to offer varieties of "unlimited" text, data and voice plans. Sprint says it does not throttle data speeds for unlimited customers on its flagship brand but it does throttle data speeds at Virgin, generally once a user reaches 2.5GB of data consumption in a month. According to an email from Wallace, "Boost at this time does not have a speed reduction in place, other than any extreme situations, as stated in Terms & Conditions that I believe all carriers hold."

Sprint recently dropped the one-year-old HTC Evo 3D device from its flagship brand's inventory. In March, Bob Azzi, senior vice president of networks at Sprint, said that while the company experienced success with its WiMAX handsets, including the HTC Evo -the precedessor to the Evo 3D--Sprint will not launch any additional WiMAX devices. Instead, Sprint is focus on deploying multimodal equipment that includes LTE.

Though Sprint has no major commercial LTE networks in operation yet, it has announced three LTE-compatible smartphones: the Samsung Galaxy Nexus, HTC Evo 4G LTE and the LG Viper. Sprint is promising 15 LTE devices by year-end, most of them smartphones, and says it will launch LTE service in 10 major markets by mid-year. Sprint is operating LTE networks in certain small towns such as Kankakee, Ill., and other markets it has not named.

For more:
- see this TechnoBuffalo article
- see this Electronista article
- see this other Electronista article
- see this PocketNow article

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Euteneuer: If Verizon and AT&T get an LTE iPhone, so will Sprint
Sprint to launch LTE on 1900 MHz spectrum by mid-2012
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This article was updated on April 24, 2012, to reflect Boost Mobile's current data throttling policy.