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4G World: Smartphones, embedded laptops act as 4G ambassadors for Sprint


20/10/2010

One of the most difficult obstacles in selling the country’s first 4G service has been educating consumers and businesses on what exactly 4G is, according to Sprint (NYSE:S). While the public definitely has a grasp on the concept of 3G, explaining the benefits of 4G beyond faster speeds has been a harder task, said Teresa Kellett, director of 4G for Sprint.

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Sprint, however, believes it’s found a capable 4G ambassador in its first WiMax handset, the HTC EVO 4G. While many customers are buying the device specifically for the 4G connection, many of the device`s high sales are driven by its advanced smartphone and video capabilities. Once those customers realize that those applications are driven by the EVO’s high-bandwidth low-latency WiMax connection, they’re turning into 4G converts, Kellett said.

“Talking to customers just about speed isn’t sufficient,” Kellet said. “It’s important, but demonstrating what you can do on a device with a 4G connection is the big selling point. We’re able to show that on the EVO.”

The new Samsung Epic 4G has proven to be another good ambassador for 4G’s capabilities, but since the EVO has been in the market longer Sprint has begun to spot trends showing it triggering greater adoption of 4G services, Kellett said. Sprint won’t release any specific numbers on adoption, but it’s found that many customers buy the EVO solely as a smartphone at first and then activate the Wi-Fi hotspot capability later, turning the device into mobile broadband router. Enterprise customers are buying the EVO for personal or business use, but after discovering its greater broadband capabilities are buying embedded laptop and data card 4G services.

Sprint is now hoping it can push that same trend, just in the opposite direction. This week, it announced its first dual-mode 3G/4G embedded laptops, the Dell Inspiron Mini 10 netbook and the Dell Inspiron 11x notebook. Sprint has launched WiMax-embedded laptops before, but they’ve all sported WiMax-only modems, meaning customers specifically bought the device for 4G connectivity, Kellett said. By embedding EV-DO fallback capabilities into the laptops, Sprint can sell them to its broader customer base just as it does the EVO, Kellet said. Hopefully some of those customers will discover the 4G’s capabilities through the embedded laptops, which will in turn lead them to sign up for 4G smartphone accounts, Kellet said.

“It’s important for us to have 4G across the portfolio,” Kellett said. “That’s especially important as we shift more into a mass market approach to 4G next year.”

Ironically one of the biggest boosts in public education about 4G will come with the launch of Sprint competitor Verizon Wireless’ (NYSE:VZ, NYSE:VOD) long-term evolution (LTE) network this winter, Kellett said. VZW plans a huge rollout cover 110 million pops by year-end, which will raise public awareness of 4G across the country. Sprint will obviously face new competition with another 4G provider in its markets, but Kellett, said Sprint stands to benefit from the additional 4G exposure.

Sprint is also beginning to see some of the first applications on its networks optimized specifically for 4G. Medical software developer AirStrip has begun testing 4G’s potential for delivering massive amounts of real-time patient data to physicians outside of the hospitals. Its application streams EKG and fetal monitor graphs from bedside devices directly to doctors’ smartphone, but because of the limitations of the 3G pipe, the amount of real-time data that could be transmitted was limited said Bruce Brandes, chief sales officer for AirStrip.

AirStrip is starting off small for now, increasing the amount of moniter data history shipped to a 4G device from 4 hours to 8 hours. That in itself is a huge plus for doctors who need as much graph information as possible to form diagnoses. But AirStrip has plans to introduce real-time physician video collaboration features and other applications that couldn’t be supported on 3G, Brandes said.

“A lot of the stuff we dreamed up but couldn’t implement is now technically feasible with 4G,” Brandes said.



 

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