Sprint looks to headline CES with 4G news

Sprint Nextel appears to be prepping a news blitz in conjunction with the Consumer Electronics Show, to be held in Las Vegas during the first week of next year. The company issued an invitation for media only for a "4G event" Jan. 6 that will feature Sprint CEO Dan Hesse alongside Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer and Best Buy CEO Brian Dunn. Although the invitation was relatively short on specifics, it promises an event "showcasing Sprint's 4G leadership."

Major company announcements often include appearances by the leadership of the vendors involved, and Sprint's teasing of Microsoft and Best Buy's participation could portend the companies' activity on the mobile WiMAX front (Sprint resells Clearwire's mobile WiMAX service under the "Sprint 4G" tag). However, it's not clear exactly how Microsoft and Best Buy will play in Sprint's WiMAX push; a Sprint representative declined to provide any additional information beyond what's in the invitation.

Interestingly, Sprint isn't betting only on the star power of three executives from multi-billion dollar corporations; also scheduled to attend the 4G event are comedian Frank Caliendo and Mario Batali, a celebrity chef who will headline a "culinary demonstration."

But wait! Caliendo and Batali aren't the only celebrities Sprint and its partners have enlisted to wow CES attendees. During a separate event, scheduled for Jan. 7, actress Brooke Shields is hosting an event for Sprint and LG's mobile phone unit.

Of course, Sprint isn't the only wireless player hoping for CES glory. Palm has an event scheduled for Jan. 7, while Verizon Wireless is expected to show off its LTE progress Jan. 7 and AT&T Mobility will host a "developer summit" Jan. 6.

While the wireless industry has long used the spring CTIA show as a venue for major announcements, CES is rapidly blossoming into a major destination for mobile unveilings (thereby highlighting the merging of wireless with the wider consumer electronics industry). Indeed, last year's CES was the site of Palm's Pre and webOS announcement.

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