Sprint unveils Nexus, tri-mode hotspot for LTE

The company's first three devices for LTE will be the Galaxy Nexus, the LG Viper and a 3G/WiMax/LTE hotspot

Sprint Nextel's first three devices for its coming LTE network will be the Samsung Galaxy Nexus and LG Viper smartphones and a Sierra Wireless hotspot that will use Sprint's 3G and WiMax networks as well as LTE, the carrier announced in advance of the Consumer Electronics Show.

Though Sprint has said it will launch LTE (Long-Term Evolution) in the first half of this year, it did not disclose any ship dates or prices for the three devices. In a press release, the company said it would provide more details closer to the products' release dates. By the end of the year, the No. 4 U.S. mobile operator expects to release 15 LTE devices, including phones, tablets and data cards.

The Nexus, the first handset with Google's Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich OS, finally went on sale through Verizon Wireless on Dec. 15 after a series of delays. Among other new features, the phone includes mobile hotspot capability, video chatting through Google+ Hangouts, and NFC (Near-Field Communications) for making purchases and exchanging content by tapping NFC phones together. It is the second Sprint Android phone that can use Google Wallet for mobile commerce.

The LG Viper 4G LTE will have a 4-inch display, a 1.2GHz dual-core processor and two cameras: a 5-megapixel, rear-facing unit and a VGA front-facing camera for video chatting. It will run Android 2.3 Gingerbread and will have a microSD slot for cards as big as 32GB. The phone is designed to be ecologically friendly, with a casing made of 35 percent recycled material and a charger with power consumption that exceeds the EC Code of Conduct standard, according to Sprint.

The Sierra Wireless Tri-Network Hotspot will connect as many as eight devices via Wi-Fi and will include a microSD slot to store content for sharing among users of the device. With all three network technologies built in, the hotspot will be able to get the fastest possible Sprint coverage wherever it goes.

Sprint expects to have LTE networks in 11 markets, including Dallas, Houston, San Antonio, Texas and Atlanta, by the middle of this year. It will also continue to use its current WiMax network, operated by Clearwire, and sell WiMax devices with two-year contracts at least until the end of this year. The LTE rollout is part of Sprint's larger Network Vision initiative, which will create a flexible, multi-technology network and will include 3G coverage enhancements, according to the company.

Stephen Lawson covers mobile, storage and networking technologies for The IDG News Service. Follow Stephen on Twitter at @sdlawsonmedia. Stephen's e-mail address is stephen_lawson@idg.com

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