Sprint will begin selling its first two 4G LTE devices on May 18th, 2012. The first is the HTC Evo 4G LTE, Sprint’s version of the HTC One X smartphone. The second is a new mobile hotspot that you can use to connect phones, tablets, laptops, or other devices to Sprint’s wireless network.
There’s just one catch — Sprint doesn’t actually have a 4G LTE network online yet. It’s expected to start bringing its LTE network online later this year, starting in just a handful of US cities.
So here’s what Sprint is doing with these first devices — it’s making sure they can connect to Sprint’s existing wireless networks as well.
The HTC Evo 4G LTE can use Sprint’s existing 3G CDMA network. You won’t get blazing fast download and upload speeds, but you should be able to use the phone in most parts of the US.
But Sprint’s new Sierra Wireless Tri-Fi hotspot goes a little further. You can use it to connect to Sprint’s existing 3G or 4G WiMAX networks. When LTE is available in mid-2012 it will work with that network as well.
WiMAX offer speeds that Sprint says are up to 10 times faster than 3G CDMA , although in practice they’re usually more like 2-3 times faster, with download speeds topping out at 6 Mbps. Sprint says its LTE network will offer average speeds between 6 and 8 Mbps with peak speeds as high as 25 Mbps.
The Tri-Fi hotspot is the first hotspot device to support all CDMA, WiMAX, and LTE — even if the LTE network isn’t actually available yet. It will allow you to connect up to 8 WiFi capable devices at once and supports 802.11b/g/n WiFi.
There’s also a microSD card slot which you can use for shared network storage.
The hotspot measures 3.8″ x 2.3″ x 1″ and weighs about 5 ounces. It’s expected to get up to 8 hours of battery life or up to 8 weeks of standby time.