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Sprint Pushes Seattle's Clearwire With Forthcoming Sexy Phone

By Sam Machkovech March 24, 2010

Yesterday, at the rollout of its sexy new HTC Evo 4G phone, Sprint effectively announced that after investing billions of dollars, they're finally thrusting their Seattle business partner Clearwire into the mainstream—and quite possibly changing how we'll get online for the next decade.

Isn't Clearwire just another Internet service provider? Well, yes, but it's one that a next-generation cell phone like the Evo will tap into. Set for release exclusively on Sprint this summer, the Evo's among the new wave of iPhone ass-kickers: larger, sharper screen (4.3"), two cameras that border on SLR power levels, Flash compatibility (take THAT, iPhone), etc., etc. Most impressively, it can deploy as a WiFi hotspot for eight other devices. You'll be the life of the airport terminal with this thing.

The last point is where the Clearwire connection begins to take shape.

When you make a call, the Evo will look for a satellite in the sky. That's nothing new. But when you pull up a web page or video, the Evo will hunt for a 4G hub—like a normal WiFi router, only with miles and miles of range and (ideally) serving awesome speeds--some say 16 MB/sec, others say nearly double. The company behind Sprint's 4G network (technical name WiMax): Clearwire, in which Sprint owns a majority share.

With the billions that Sprint and Clearwire have pumped into building 4G hubs, this new phone is  a harbinger of how millions will connect to the Internet over the next decade or two. Already, hardware and software makers alike are aiming at touchscreen devices, and that drives both prices and consumer demand. It's realistic to assume that within a decade, it'll be cheaper to buy a powerful touchscreen tablet—or a cell phone that operates like a touchscreen tablet—than to buy an equivalent home computer. And with WiMax having the throughput to deliver phone, Internet, and television services, who's gonna give a flip about Comcast by then?

The thing is, easily accessible 4G networks (which AT&T and Verizon are also building under the LTE moniker) are the missing piece to the portable tech puzzle. Current, pesky 3G download rates aren't going to convert the masses, and centers have to be built all over the country to reach metropolitan centers and exurbs alike—no easy feat. Clearwire is beating everybody else to this task.

With Sprint's barrels of cash building WiMax centers across the country—most likely as a long-term plan to combat carriers like AT&T—Clearwire is locking that seemingly impossible jigsaw piece into place a good six to eight years early, and beating most city-sponsored initiatives in the process.
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