Things to look for at CTIA: America's first 4G smartphone

Sprint is making the bold first move into 4G smartphone market next week, a Wall Street Journal report said today. At that time, the carrier is expected to show off its new WiMAX-enabled HTC Supersonic.

The Supersonic has been a pretty big blip on the Android community's radar for several months, after a whole list of HTC device names was uncovered in a leaked Sense UI ROM last December. Since that time, a few more details have been discovered, and a few blurry spy camera shots and renders have surfaced; but as far as official specs go, there are none. It looks to have the same massive 4.3" screen that the HD2 has, run on the Android platform, and possibly contain a Snapdragon processor.

Sprint is the only major mobile network operator with a higher-speed "4G" network immediately available to consumers, but it is currently only accessible through USB dongles and portable hotspots like the Sierra Wireless Overdrive, and these are still only available in about 10 markets nationwide.

There are nearly 30 WiMAX networks active in the US now under the Clear brand (a joint venture of Sprint and Clearwire), and this year Clearwire expects to complete 80 more cities including major markets Chicago, Philadelphia, New York, Boston, Seattle, and Washington DC.

Since Betanews is headquartered in Baltimore, we've been using Sprint's WiMAX network since it first launched in 2008. I ran a quick test this morning to see how well the WiMAX connection holds up against my smartphones' 3G connections, and the performance was actually only marginally better.

Using the FCC's Ookla network tester three times for each network, Sprint 4G averaged 5.35 Mbps / 0.30 Mbps with 130 ms latency, Verizon 3G averaged 1.61 Mbps / 0.65 Mbps with 122 ms latency, and T-Mobile 3G averaged 0.5Mbps / 0.45 Mbps with 215 ms latency. Unfortunately, I didn't have a device handy to test AT&T's speeds in the area this morning.

We will be meeting with both Sprint and HTC at CTIA next week and will be able to give you a crystal clear look at the device if it does, in fact, show up.

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