First 4G Smartphone Shines: Introducing Android HTC EVO

Clearwire, the 4G wireless network provider backed by Sprint Nextel and a consortium of tech firms, announced this week at the CTIA show in Las Vegas a further expansion of its network into 27 more cities, as well as the first 4G handset.

The company is in the middle of a national rollout with a network that today covers 27 cities. It has previously promised that it would expand to cover New York, Houston, Boston, Washington, D.C., Kansas City, Denver, Minneapolis and San Francisco by this year.

Now, add Los Angeles, Miami, St. Louis, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, and Salt Lake City to that list of cities that will be covered by the end of this year, while even more are expected to be announced as the year goes on. The company said it expects to cover 120 million Americans by the year's end, ahead of Verizon's plans to service 100 million by year-end.

While most wireless providers moving to "4G" technology are embracing LTE, or Long-Term Evolution, Clearwire uses WiMAX, a competing wireless technology developed by a consortium that includes Intel (NASDAQ: INTC), Cisco (NASDAQ: CSCO) and Motorola (NYSE: MOT).

Clearwire says it has around 680,000 subscribers -- all of whom are using PC cards in their laptops, since a WiMAX phone has yet to become available.

Android-Powered HTC EVO Rocks Industry

That may be changing soon, however, thanks to Tuesday's introduction of HTC's EVO Android-based phone at CTIA Wireless. The phone has a 4.3-inch capacitive touchscreen, runs Android OS 2.1 and HTC's Sense UI. It runs a 1GHz Snapdragon processor from Qualcomm, the same chip in HTC's Nexus One for Google.

The EVO 4G comes with a variety of video codecs (define) and HDMI output for watching streaming videos. It also comes with an 8-megapixel camera and can do "HD-capable" video capture. Pricing was not announced. The phone is expected to ship this summer.

Avi Greengart, research director with Current Analysis, was at the rollout of the phone and liked what he saw. "Sprint needed something over-the-top to break through all the smartphone clutter, and the Evo delivers in spades. Huge screen, fast processor, modern OS, and tons of unique capabilities based on its hardware and the faster network," he said in an e-mail to InternetNews.com.

Clearwire has another PC supporter in Dell (NASDAQ: DELL), which it said plans to launch an Inspiron Mini 10 netbook with built-in WiMAX support on April 1. The price will be $249.99 after instant rebate. Clearwire claims to have more than 30 4G-capable notebooks and netbooks already.

4G WiMAX Mobile Network Expansion

As part of its big announcements at CTIA, Clearwire also said it will expand its cell site capacities by doubling the number of transmitters and receivers per site, which will result in an increase in end-user speeds by approximately 20-30 percent.

Ongoing enhancements to Clearwire's backhaul network are expected to increase total backhaul capacity by 250 percent or more, thus increasing data exchanges between end points and the core of the network infrastructure.

"On average, our mobile 4G customers are using more than 7 GB of data per month, and we're very pleased about the implications. Those who want to have a misguided debate about competing 4G radio technologies are missing the bigger picture. To deliver true mobile broadband requires deep spectrum resources and an all-IP network, and Clearwire remains unrivaled on both fronts," Clearwire CEO Bill Morrow said in a statement.

Andy Patrizio is a senior editor at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals.


Android, smartphone, Sprint, 4g, HTC