Sprint was the first to offer 4G-powered MiFi devices, and then became the first to have a smartphone running on a 4G network. Now, it's also the first to confirm a tablet device capable of connecting to a next-gen mobile data service. "We’ve had a lot of time to work with our customers and build up a portfolio of 4G devices and services," said Sprint exec Paget Alves in a recent Forbes interview. He confirmed the company is working with partners for multiple new tablets, running on various operating systems.
At least one of them will be wired for 4G, which would mean it can connect to the Internet at the same speeds as home broadband networks, but without the need to ever set up a wireless network or external attachment.
The tablet market is still relatively new. Beyond the iPad and the Galaxy Tab, nothing is really managing to stand out, and both of those devices only run on 3G. Even the Sprint version of the Galaxy Tab decided not to take advantage of the carrier's growing 4G network.
Of course, it seems only a natural progression that connected tablets would start hopping onto the 4G train, but the question is when it will happen and how good the device itself is.
Verizon just launched its own 4G network on December 5, but it will be a while before any dedicated mobile devices can tap into it. As such, it's unlikely the rumored Verizon iPad, which is expected to be announced in January, will have 4G support.
This could mean the iPad will run behind, as Apple seems to be more focused on the feature set of the device, and expanding it to work beyond AT&T, than it is to make it 4G-capable.
Alves didn't say when the Sprint 4G tablet will be available, but of course, when it comes to getting a head start on everyone else, the sooner the better.