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First WiMAX handset launched, again

But even Clearwire reckons LTE is the future

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Americans will get a 4G handset in the summer from HTC and operating over WiMAX, though even America's WiMAX operator admits that LTE is technology of the future.

The handset is called the EVO, rather than "supersonic" as was rumoured, but the specs remain the same as it sports Android OS running on Qualcomm's Snapdragon processor, the EVO is also the first 4G telephone operable in America, for as long as Sprint continues to run its WiMAX network.

"The architecture of our network is designed to be able to add on LTE should we need to," Bill Morrow, CEO of Sprint joint venture Clearwire told the CTIA trade show in Las Vegas. "We consider ourselves technology agnostic."

Hardly a ringing endorsement for the WiMAX standard. Just to underline the options, Morrow spelled it out: "We can sunset one technology going forward if we need to in the future."

The decision to go with WiMAX was all about speed - not speed of the network, but speed to market as Sprint's CEO explained: "LTE will most likely be the larger of the two 4G standards, but for us, we couldn't wait."

Clearwire is probably right in that deploying LTE won't be that much of a challenge - once one has licensed spectrum, hired locations and built base stations, the cost of the technology isn't such a big deal. And Clearwire is still expanding its WiMAX network while noting that every base station built could be used for LTE if necessary.

At CTIA there's much talk of interoperable handsets supporting both LTE and WiMAX, though Computerworld reports that AT&T was pretty dismissive of the idea, as well it might be. The rest of the world isn't interested in interoperable 4G, and even America can't offer the economies of scale needed to make that happen.

But at least WiMAX networks now have a handset - two if you count the last "world's first WiMAX handset" which was launched by HTC back in 2008. That's two more than the LTE networks which are limited to data services while the operators sort out the minor detail of how to carry phone calls over their 4G phone network. ®

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