Before LTE became widespread in the United States, Sprint launched its own high-speed data network using the competing WiMAX protocol. It wasn’t as fast as LTE, but that didn’t stop the company from calling it 4G.
Sprint isn’t the only name in the WiMAX game… but Clearwire, FreedomPop, and most other companies that offer WiMAX service in the US are actually using Sprint’s network.
And that network will shut down in the beginning of November, 2015.
A recent document obtained by Android Central suggested Sprint would be pulling the plug on its WiMAX network on November 6th. Now Fierce Wireless reports a Spring spokesperson confirms that the network will shut down on or around that date.
If you have a Sprint phone that supports 3G and WiMAX you’ll still be able to use it after that time, but it’ll only work on Sprint’s 3G network. But if you’ve got one of those phones, odds are that it’s an older device and you qualify for an upgrade to a 4G LTE capable model anyway.
On the other hand if you’ve got a hotspot or other device from FreedomPop, Karma, or another mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) that’s using Sprint’s network, you’ll need to get a different device by the time the WiMAX dries up in November or lose your mobile access altogether.
FreedomPop is already starting to add LTE phones and hotspots to its lineup, but most of the products the company offers are WiMAX devices. Expect that to change in the coming year.
I’ve been using a Clearwire USB dongle for internet access during my annual trip to Las Vegas for the Consumer Electronics Show in January. I’ve been thinking about picking up something different for my next trip in January, 2015 — and this time I’ll probably opt for an LTE device.