By Ed Oswald | Monday, July 12, 2010 at 1:49 pm
For a carrier that made so much of being the first to 4G, it’s own issues with keeping 4G handsets in stock may end up costing it the lead in the race towards faster wireless speeds. Sprint CEO Dan Hesse was surprising candid about the company’s issues in an interview with the Wall Street Journal that appeared in Monday’s edition.
About 300,000 units of the EVO 4G have already sold since its early June release, and phone manufacturer HTC is having trouble keeping up with demand. Now Sprint cannot even promise a solid ship date to customers attempting to purchase it online, and good luck trying to find it in its retail stores.
Another 4G-compatible phone is on the way, dubbed “The Epic”, but is likely not going to be available for several months. That doesn’t help Sprint at all.
These issues likely mean that Sprint will only have a few months of lead time before competitors start turning on their own 4G networks. Verizon should start rolling out its LTE network in select cities by the end of the year, and AT&T plans to begin offering 4G services in 2011. T-Mobile, while far behind in 3G, has been rumored to move straight to its own 4G plans next year as well in a bid to stay competitive.
EVO 4G supply issues aren’t HTC’s only problem, as it has multiple phones in its portfolio that are doing well. Verizon’s Droid Incredible is another example. These shortages are not even the company’s fault: it lies in the parts necessary to build the phone which HTC doesn’t produce itself, such as the touch screen.
One thing is clear: the next several months will be critical for Sprint. If it cannot get its act together soon, it will once again find itself ceding ground to its rivals. A shame for a company who a year ago seemed so far ahead.