Something you never hear mentioned in all of those Sprint 4G commercials is the fact that the network is actually powered by a partner company named Clearwire.  While there is nothing wrong with Sprint teaming up with someone else for something such as this that will be such a huge investment, what may be wrong is if halfway through they decide they picked the wrong format.

sprintwimaxAfter much research in the HD-DVD vs Blu-ray format war, I went with HD-DVD.  We all know in hindsight how bright that was, and now I have a lovely player and a healthy collection of films on a dead format.  Yay me.  I was a smart consumer, though, and I picked up most of the movies pretty dirt cheap, and even got the player on sale with seven movies.  No big deal, right?

Now, imagine you’ve invested hundreds of millions of dollars into a “format”, and you are about to roll out your first cellphone handset to work with it just as the two companies begin questioning if they backed the wrong horse.  Imagine having to change all of that technology all of a sudden, and it’s easy to imagine the people who buy that first handset aren’t going ot be to happy either.

This is the exact situation partners Sprint and Clearwire are finding themselves in.  Just as the cellular carrier is preparing to launch the HTC Evo 4G, the first handset in the United States to run on WiMax, it seems the two companies are wondering if they should switch over to LTE (Long-Term Evolution).

Despite the fact that WiMax has a huge head start on LTE, it’s looking like the latter may end up being the superior 4G technology.  “Because we consider ourselves technology agnostic … we’ll give our customers just exactly what they want,” said Bill Morrow, CEO of Clearwire, told InfoWorld recently. “They want to get access to the network, high speed, low cost, lots of capacity, low latency. Either one of these technologies can deliver those. … The architecture of our network is designed to be able to add on LTE should we need to.”  The troubling part was where Mr. Morrow said, “We can sunset one technology going forward if we need to in the future.”

Wait, “sunset one technology going forward if we need to in the future”?  Um … you sure that is what your Evo customers are going to want?  What about your customers for the mobile Wi-Fi hotspot generator, Overdrive?  You sure they are going to want you to “sunset” the technology that powers their devices?  Perhaps you should have thought this through a bit more before you rolled out so much equipment and started selling devices that work against that technology?

It looks to me like consumers may want to wait a while before they go too slap happy on any 4G products, it seems the companies are questioning the outfit they chose to bring to the dance.

What say you?  Should Sprint/Clearwire change the technology this far into the project?  How would you feel if they change it after you buy a device to run on WiMax with them?