While boldly talking up intentions for more phones, PCs, and sundry other 4G devices in New York City this week, Sprint also issued a press release announcing that its edition of Samsung’s Android-based Galaxy Tab tablet will be available nationwide on November 14 for $400, with a choice of two 3G wireless plans.
“We will have a lot more 4G devices,” Sprint VP of Business Marketing Tom Roberts told me on Monday at a customer and press launch event for Sprint’s 4G services, now set to start November 1 in the New York City metro area.
With WiMax rollouts also slated for San Francisco, Los Angeles and Boston some time in the near future, Sprint and its partner Clearwire will have penetrated more than half of the major US metro markets by the end of this year, said Roberts.
During a presentation, Roberts pointed to Sprint’s intentions for the eventual nationwide availability of 4G devices in categories ranging from phones to mobile hotspots, routers, and 4G-embedded PCs. One slide spoke of “4G-ready mobile computing devices [from] Dell, Toshiba, Lenovo, plus more.”
Sprint and its allies also conducted video-centric demos of a number of 4G WiMax gadgets already under deployment with customers in various parts of the US.
Aside from the HTC 4G EVO and Samsung Epic 4G phones, these included Motorola’s CPEi25150 desktop modem for SOHO use, videoconferencing systems from VTEL and Creative Labs, home health monitoring equipment, and assorted surveillance paraphernalia.
Some other wireless were not on display, though, such as Sprint’s Galaxy Tab tablet, a rumored second 4G WiMax phone from HTC, and the Sprint 4G-embedded Dell Inspiron 10 netbook and Inspiron 11z notebook PC just announced on Friday.
Roberts wouldn’t comment on recent reports that a new WiMax phone from HTC, possibly to be called the “Knight,” will be released in January.
But he noted that Sprint will start offering 4G-embedded editions of Dell’s Inspiron 10 and 11z in retail stores on a nationwide basis on November 14th. The 4G-embedded Dell netbook will be available free of charge, after a $100 mail-in rebate, with a two-year 3G/4G or 3G-only pricing plan.
The Dell laptop will be priced at around $150, after rebate, also with a two-year contract. Roberts told me that the laptop will be available to businesses slightly earlier – on October 31 – through Sprint’s direct business sales team. Monthly wireless service plans for the two Inspirons run $39.99 for 3G-only, with 500MB of data, and $59.99 for 3G/4G, with unlimited 4G and 500GB of 3G data.
In contrast, Sprint’s edition of the Galaxy Tab will come with a choice of two 3G wireless plans: a 2GB data plan with unlimited messaging for $29.99 per month or a 5GB data plan with unlimited messaging for $59.99 per month.
Like Samsung’s Galaxy S phone before it, Samsung’s tablet will be presented in various flavors by the leading US wireless carriers. Verizon will sell the Tab for $600 without a contract, while AT&T and T-Mobile haven’t yet specified their plans for Samsung’s tablet.
On the other hand, Sprint’s rendition of the Galaxy S smartphone – the Epic 4G – is the only Galaxy S-based phone in the lot to be outfitted with 4G, not just 3G.
Why isn’t Sprint’s version of the Galaxy Tab also 4G-enabled? It’s hard to say. Yet although issues around tablet chip availability, limitations of the Android 2.2 operating system, and WiMax bandwith might come into play, it’s also true that the Tab is geared to consumer use.
Meanwhile, Roberts told me on Monday that Sprint is initially targeting its 4G services mostly at big businesses, whereas Clearwire and its cable provider partners are focusing on converting consumers and smaller businesses from DSL.
Generally speaking, Sprint takes the first dive into new geographic markets, although sometimes Clearwire makes the first move, according to the Sprint VP.
In an effort at faster speeds, Clearwire recently announced a pilot test in Phoenix of a network integrating WiMax with LTE, the 4G architecture planned by Verizon and AT&T.
“We’ve said at Sprint that we’re open to the idea of integrating WiMax with LTE, too,” Roberts observed. Roberts also told me that Sprint actually welcomes the anticipated entrance of Verizon into the 4G fold in mid-2011: “This will create even more buzz around 4G.”
In any case, live demos during the mid-day session of the event on Monday did give evidence that deployments of 4G WiMax in New York are indeed already real.
In a demo at one booth, VTE Ken Hall, said several organizations have already stepped in to commercial rollout with V-Tel’s Sprint 4G-driven videoconferencing app, including a school system in Ohio, a sheriff’s department in a Southern state, and the US Department of Labor.
So far, the Department of Labor has only deployed the videoconferencing app in its Washington, DC and Baltimore, MD offices – but plans call for a nationwide rollout to cut down on travel expenses, according to Hall, who is VP of sales for Atlanta, GA-based VTEL.
In another booth, Larry Diamond, VP of American Telecare, told me that the Eden Prairie, MN-based company has already completed testing of its Sprint 4G app for wireless monitoring of vital signs among homebound senior citizens.
Based on these test results, he said, several home health care agencies are now rolling out commercial services for reporting on blood pressure and stethoscope-measured heart rates, including an agency on the North Shore of Long Island.