Sprint Nextel Corp.'s new ultrafast cellular data network is getting some support from Nokia Corp., which said Tuesday it is going to launch a Web-browsing "tablet" for the WiMax network as it goes live this summer.
The Web tablet, which features a 4.1-inch touch screen and a slide-out keyboard, is likely to join a tiny laptop from ASUSTek Computer as the first gadgets that can use the network, in addition to laptop cards and desktop modems.
Finland-based Nokia previously announced its intention to make a WiMax tablet, but provided specifics for the first time on Tuesday.
The tablet will be a modified version of Nokia's N810 model, with a slight bulge on the back for the WiMax antenna. Nokia President Mark Louison said the price would be similar to the N810, which sells for $439 on Nokia's Web site.
Contrary to usual practices in the U.S. wireless industry, Nokia will be selling the devices, rather than the carrier. Activation for Sprint's network will happen in much the same way people buy access to commercial Wi-Fi hotspots. If WiMax becomes available in the area, the tablet will notify the owner that it has picked up a signal.
Connecting to the network will take the user to a Sprint Web page where a credit card number can be entered. Access prices have not been announced for the network, which Sprint will be marketing under the Xohm brand.
Nokia is involved in Xohm in another way: Its joint venture with Siemens AG is one of the suppliers of network hardware.
WiMax will enable downloads of 2 to 4 megabits per second, peaking at speeds of up to 10 mbps, according to Nokia. By comparison, current third-generation broadband networks peak out at 1.4 mbps, though speeds are increasing.
In January, Asus announced that a model of its small portable computer, the eeePC, will come with a built-in WiMax chip. It also plans to make regular laptops with the chips later in the year. Intel Corp. is a major backer of the technology, making it likely that chips will show up in laptops from other manufacturers as well.
Sprint is in talks with Intel, Google Inc. and cable operators Comcast Corp., Time Warner Cable Inc. and Bright House Networks for an infusion of capital to help build the network. Clearwire Corp., which already operates a pre-WiMax network in smaller cities across the country, would collaborate in building the network.