Today, Sprint announced a high-speed modem that will enable subscribers to connect to the Internet over both 3G and 4G WiMAX networks. The new dual-mode modem will operate on both the WiMAX network Clearwire Corp is building and on Sprint's existing mobile broadband network.
The U300 USB modem will be available starting Sunday, December 21 for $149.99 after a $50 rebate and with a two-year contract. Data plans will cost $80 per month for the dual-mode card. To compare, Sprint offers a WiMAX-only card and corresponding monthly service plan of $45 for network access.
The U300 can reach download speeds of 2 to 4 Mbps within WiMAX range, and downlink speeds of 600 Kbps to 1.4 Mbps when connected to Sprint's EV-DO Rev. A network. This modem is compatible with Windows Vista, XP, and 2000, and utilizes the Sprint Connection Manager to connect to the fastest connection available in any given location.
The modem has an internal antenna, and is also backwards compatible to the Sprint EV-DO Rev 0 and 1XRTT networks, should you find yourself in a spot without the faster forms of connectivity. The actual size of the device is 1.28 x 3.6 x 0.48 inches.
Currently, the WiMAX service is only available in Baltimore, but additional cities are coming. In fact, Clearwire expects to launch the service in Portland, Oregon in early January. To correspond with current service availability, the Sprint 3G/4G USB Modem U300 will first be available via the Sprint direct business sales force, at most Baltimore-area Sprint stores, and at some Baltimore-area retailers. In January, the device will also be available in Baltimore-area Best Buy stores.
Until WiMAX becomes available throughout the country, customers would have had to have two devices—one for WiMAX and one for Sprint’s EVDO network—before the U300 became available. Given that many users probably wouldn’t be willing to pay for separate modems and separate plans, this is a wise move on the part of both Sprint and Clearwire to help the companies boost usage of the newer technology.