By Relmor Demitrius
Sprint (NYSE:S) announced last week that it will be introducing to the market a 4G Tablet, similar to Apple’s IPad, sometime in 2011. This is a move to break Apple’s (NASDAQ:AAPL) dominance in this market, which is now supported by other carriers' networks, not just AT&T (NYSE:T). The IPad currently runs on a 3G network with AT&T. This is another step in removing the exclusiveness of the AT&T/Apple connection that has driven customers to AT&T in the past. With less and less unique hardware supported by the largely considered “inferior” AT&T network, this could mean a customer drain away from AT&T and into carrier’s such as T-Mobile, Sprint, and Verizon (NYSE:VZ).
Verizon and T-Mobile have also announced similar product offerings coming in 2011. AT&T has no comment on new products like this in the offering and noted that it would not be inclined to speculate on such an offering. There may be a hidden pressure from AT&T's Apple partner to not compete with Apple at this time. This is simply speculation, but it isn’t impossible to see 2011 end with Tablets from all major carriers except AT&T.
With Verizon now opening up its own 4G broadband modem network, Sprint will soon lose its short-lived monopoly on this new service, a technology (WiMax) that allows faster download times than previous networks.
Sprint has a 4G broadband plan, which is now matched by Verizon. Verizon now has a 38-market 4G broadband modem, the LG LV600, with reports so far having it meeting performance goals. But as of yet no phones support this network. It can also toggle between 3G and 4G networks, whichever is currently available. This would put these services on par with each other at this time. The phone 4G usage is still exclusive to Sprint. Verizon has no 4G network-supported phones. Sprint is in more markets at this time, which is another advantage it has over Verizon’s 4G Mobile Broadband coverage.
For now Sprint can attempt to increase its 11% market share of cell phone users in the U.S. and also its data plan subscribers. With offers such as 30 day risk free trial use of its network, and its Ready Now program, which trains users on device features for no charge, Sprint is trying to keep its churn low and add to its customer base. With new 4G phones -- the HTC EVO and the Samsung Epic 4G Android phone -- reportedly selling well, Sprint has a window here to generate good sentiment about Sprint products and services. There's no time like the present on a company that reported negative earnings last quarter.
Disclosure: No positions on S, VZ, At&T, or AAPL