Mobile

Evo 4G shortages hurting Sprint's 4G network plans

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Despite being the first wireless carrier to offer a 4G wireless network — which promises speeds ten times that of 3G — Sprint is finding that increased shortages of its flagship Evo 4G Android smartphone may be hindering its plans for 4G domination, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The device is suffering from equipment shortages that have been plaguing the mobile hardware industry for months. HTC, which manufacturers the Evo 4G, is also having trouble delivering sufficient amounts of its Droid Incredible phone for Verizon. In particular, there’s a shortage of screens from Samsung. Samsung is building a factory specifically to help with screen production, but it won’t be ready until 2012. (Samsung’s launch of its new Galaxy S Android superphones may also have some effect on screens available for other companies.)

HTC is planning to add more suppliers for screens (it recently signed a deal with Sony), and it’s looking to secure more shipping space to get the phones to shelves faster.

Thus far, Sprint has sold 300,000 Evo 4G phones. The company hasn’t announced specific 4G subscriber numbers, and the Evo 4G numbers aren’t a good indicator, since many buyers don’t have 4G service available. Clearwire, which is building the 4G network and is also 56 percent owned by Sprint, had 157,000 customers at the end of the first quarter — which includes subscribers from Sprint and other companies. Sprint itself has 48.1 million wireless customers — so at best the amount of 4G customers is a blip compared to other subscribers.

Still, the 4G roll out is important to Sprint. It’s executive bonuses are directly tied to 4G subscriber growth — they now account for 20 percent of the weight when calculating bonuses, up from 10 percent. Its competitors are also gearing up for their own 4G networks as well. Verizon may be planning to launch its 4G network this fall, and AT&T is steadily increasing its 3G speeds, and plans to begin rolling out 4G in 2011.

Sprint plans to bring 4G to major cities like New York and San Francisco by the end of the year. But if its Evo 4G shortages continue, its early-bird 4G efforts may be squandered.

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