Sprint announces dual-mode USB modem for WiMax, 3G

It can help users find fastest connections for laptops and other devices

Sprint Nextel Corp. today announced the first USB modem for connecting laptops and other devices to both WiMax and 3G (third generation) wireless networks operated by Sprint.

The Sprint 3G/4G USB Modem U300 goes on sale Dec. 21 for $150 after a $50 mail-in rebate. A two-year subscriber agreement is required. So far, Baltimore is the only WiMax network in operation. Sprint launched the network in October under the Xohm brand.

In December, Sprint's Xohm Wireless unit and WiMax-related spectrum were formally joined with Clearwire Inc. in a venture backed by Intel, Google and three cable companies. Future WiMax networks will be branded "Clear" -- and the Baltimore network will transition to that brand as well).

When the Baltimore network was launched, Xohm officials noted the need for roaming back and forth between existing 3G networks and WiMax networks for complete coverage, and they promised a modem by year's end.

According to Sprint, the new modem will offer downlink speeds of 2Mbit/sec. to 4Mbit/sec. within the Baltimore WiMax service area and 600Kbit/sec. to 1.4Mbit/sec. on the Sprint Mobile Broadband 3G Network available elsewhere.

The dual-mode modem is manufactured by Franklin Wireless Corp. Sprint also unveiled Sprint Connection Manager, software that will recognize and connect to the fastest connection, whether it's WiMax or 3G. The software will cost $80, or $20 on top of any mobile broadband connection plan.

In a separate announcement today, Sprint said it is partnering with two companies to create a development platform in which third-party developers can create location-based applications for Sprint wireless customers. The development platform will be based on WaveMarket Inc.'s Veriplace and uLocate Communications Inc.'s Where.

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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