Sprint fires up 4G in Denver, Bridgeport

Colorado has two new reasons to celebrate. On Sunday, it witnessed a spectacular first start by rookie quarterback Tim Tebow. The next day, Sprint announced it is rolling out 4G service to cities statewide. Sprint also launched 4G in Bridgeport, Conn. With these two additions, Sprint 4G is available in 70 markets.

While the Broncos didn't land the win against arch rival, the Oakland Raiders, Denver residents can rejoice in the fact that Sprint offers an unlimited 4G plan at $99 per month for 4G phones. If you want to use Sprint with a data card or other device (USB modem, Dell Inspiron Mini 10 netbook), that will set you back $60/month. This includes unlimited 4G but has a 5GB/month cap on 3G, and 300MB/month limit for off-network roaming. After hitting those limits, users will be charged 5 cents/megabyte for in-network 3G, and 25 cents/megabyte for off-network roaming. In truth, this is the same deal as you would get if you signed up for only a 3G plan -- that plan still caps usage at 5G/month, so it doesn't make sense to buy a the 3G plan at all. With a 4G-capable device you can dine at the all-you-can-eat network and its faster.

Sprint 3G/4G mobile hotspot

Sprint also offers a $70/month plan that includes unlimited in-network data, but a cap on voice minutes (450/month). And it will sell a one-day 4G "day pass" for $10 to its broadband customers when they travel to a 4G city, or if they just want to try it before renewing a long term contract.

All in all, Sprint's 4G data plans are better priced than 3G -- an effort to encourage people to buy new 4G phones and devices, as well as spill network traffic off the overloaded 3G network onto the spiffy new WiMax network.

Compare this to Verizon's prices for its 4G network launched earlier this month. Verizon offers a more reasonable base rate of $50/month for 5G of data, or $80 for 10G, but will kill heavy broadband users with overage fees because it doesn't yet offer an unlimited data plan.

The downside of Sprint is that it has dragged its feet on its smartphone line-up. If you want a 4G phone you can choose between the HTC Evo or the Samsung Epic  -- and that's it. While it's got a decent selection of BlackBerry and Android phones -- and it offer the hot Samsung Galaxy Tab Android tablet -- the carrier offers no Windows Phone 7 devices.

Samsung Galexy Tab

Like Verizon, Sprint claims its 4G network is up to 10 times faster than 3G. This claim is based on download speeds that compares 3G's low-end 600 kbps vs. best day 4G's 6 Mbps. According to Sprint, the industry average 3G speeds are 600 kbps-1.7 Mbps and the average 4G speeds are 3 to 6 Mbps. In other words, your mileage will vary.

As for football, despite the loss, Tebow's all-around talent showed fans that there is reason to hope that the 2011-12 season will be less of a disaster. And they've now got two choices of networks that will let them affordably watch the games on their 4G smartphones.