This Week in WiMax
Sprint should push its 4G router as an iPad enabler
We didn't make it down to Austin this year for the South by Southwest Interactive conference, but according to folks at Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S), they are doing lots of on-the-ground promotion of the company's Clearwire LLC (Nasdaq: CLWR)-powered 4G WiMax service at the event, with representatives walking around demonstrating the Overdrive portable WiMax/Wi-Fi router by wearing T-shirts proclaiming "I'm a hotspot." Given the big failure of AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T)'s network at last year's SXSW, being aggressive about network capacity will probably go over well with the geek-heavy attendee audience. But this plan shouldn't stay in Texas -- it's a strategy Sprint should carry into all its 4G markets, especially as Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL)'s iPad becomes available in April.
When Apple announced the iPad back in January, many observers (us included) were somewhat stunned by the choice of AT&T as sole network provider for the 3G-enabled option. But our analysis at the time, confirmed later by announcements from AT&T itself, was that Ma Bell isn't actually keen on promoting the 3G iPad, since even AT&T's CEO expects most folks to communicate with the device via a WiFi connection.
Reports surfaced this past week about a purported Verizon strategy to push its 3G "Pocketspot" router, the Novatel MiFi, as a way for folks to hook up their iPads to Verizon's network. This is a strategy I think Sprint would be wise to follow, since it can currently trump Verizon's 3G with its hybrid 3G/4G Overdrive Pocketspot, at least in the 27 markets where Clearwire's WiMax services are live. If the iPad turns out to be a popular device for watching movies or consuming other types of rich content, that 5-gig monthly cap on any 3G data plan is going to get eaten up pretty quickly. Seems like a smart move for Sprint to jump onto the iPad bandwagon with both feet, maybe by having a few iPads in each store to show how WiMax + WiFi makes for a better connection than embedded 3G.
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— Paul Kapustka is the founder and editor of Sidecut Reports, a WiMax analysis site and research service. He can be reached at [email protected]. Special to Light Reading Mobile.