Sprint 4G Arrives in More Cities, But Where Are the 4G Phones?

Sprint (s s) today announced the launch of 4G WiMAX in seven new markets, raising its total of U.S. cities covered to 43. The wireless carrier continues to progress with its planned 4G rollout in partnership with Clearwire (s clwr) and expects that larger markets such as Los Angeles, New York and Miami will see WiMAX before the end of 2010. Sprint advertises the faster wireless broadband service capabilities with average speeds between 3 to 6 Mbps down, and currently offers unlimited service plans for WiMAX.

Residents in the new coverage markets of Rochester, N.Y., Syracuse, N.Y., Merced, Calif., Visalia, Calif., Eugene, Ore., Tri-Cities, Wash., and Yakima, Washington can use the faster network with a data card or an Overdrive mobile hotspot device, but perhaps not with a phone just yet. Sprint’s first and only available 4G handset, the EVO 4G, is currently sold out amid reports of display shortages. HTC, the device manufacturer, has contracted with additional suppliers to ratchet up EVO production, says the Wall Street Journal.

The EVO handset accesses the web over 4G — but falls back to 3G networks as needed — and can also share the WiMAX connection with other mobile devices for a monthly fee. With such capabilities, the phone is currently the flagship device for Sprint’s next-generation network, so timing of handset supply issues couldn’t be worse. As the carrier attempts to ramp up subscribers to the 4G service, it needs capable devices to woo customers. Rumors of a 21 Mbps phone from T-Mobile as early as September could put additional pressure on Sprint to quickly resolve supply issues for the EVO as T-Mobile’s new service has already shown to be faster with a supported device.

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