Report: Sprint to unveil WiMAX smartphone next week

Sprint Nextel will use next week's CTIA Wireless trade show to debut its first smartphone running on Clearwire's mobile WiMAX network, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal. The report, citing unnamed sources familiar with the matter, said Sprint CEO Dan Hesse will use a press conference scheduled for Tuesday in Las Vegas to unveil the device, which the report said is the much-rumored HTC Supersonic.

Sprint has previously said it plans to launch a dual-mode 3G/WiMAX smartphone in the first half of this year, and analysts speculated CTIA would be the jumping off point. CTIA "would be an appropriate time and an appropriate venue in which to make a splash," CCS Insight analyst John Jackson told FierceWireless recently.

Representatives from Sprint, Clearwire and HTC declined to comment.

Sprint has made expanding mobile WiMAX a key priority this year. The company has tied executives' bonuses this year to, in part, how many subscribers sign up for Clearwire's mobile WiMAX service. Sprint holds a majority stake in Clearwire, which also counts Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Brighthouse Networks as key investors. Clearwire plans to cover 80 markets and 120 million POPs with mobile WiMAX by the end of this year. Clearwire's mobile WiMAX network, which is currently running in 27 markets, can deliver typical download speeds of 3-6 Mbps.

"We need to get more markets turned up, and then we need to get more devices, and then we can make more progress in that regard," Hesse said during Sprint's fourth-quarter earnings conference call. In an interview with FierceWireless in February, Hesse said that Sprint's planned dual-mode gadgets would take advantage of greater processing power, faster speeds and bigger screens--thereby giving customers a better video experience. "Because you can download data so much faster, the video experience will be so much better on 4G," he said. "And you'll see larger, higher-resolution screens generally on 4G."

The Supersonic is rumored to run Google's Android 2.1 platform with HTC'S Sense user interface on top of it, and have a 4.3-inch touchscreen display, a 1 GHz Snapdragon processor and a 5-megapixel camera.

For more:
- see this WSJ article (sub. req.)

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