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Sprint washes hands of WiMax phones

With LTE around the corner, it's no surprise that the wireless carrier now says it's curtains for future WiMax devices.

WiMax Forum logo, altered

The days of Sprint as WiMax's champion are officially over.

Earlier this morning, Bob Azzi, senior vice president of networks at Sprint, told attendees at the Competitive Carriers Global Expo that Sprint is through launching devices that use the WiMax 4G technology.

Considering that Sprint announced its first 4G LTE phone at CES, the unreleased Samsung Galaxy Nexus, it's no surprise that the carrier is throwing focus and resources squarely -- and solely -- behind LTE.

Azzi amplified the sentiment, Fierce Wireless reported. "We are wrapping up final field integration tests," he told the audience. "The technology works and delivers more benefits than we expected."

Sprint dared to be different by choosing WiMax as its 4G technology rather than LTE, like its rivals. Riding on WiMax, and partner Clearwire, Sprint made a mark by beating LTE carriers to market with the United States' first 4G phone, the HTC Evo 4G.

Since then, Verizon, AT&T, and even second-tier wireless provider MetroPCS have all deployed LTE networks, increasing the pressure on Sprint to adopt the standard.

A year ago at CTIA, Sprint CEO Hesse explained that while WiMax seemed like a good idea back when, Sprint knew it was time to switch to LTE. "WiMax was tried-and-true tested technology at the time we made the choice," Hesse said. "And we thought we could go with that for 4G now or wait for another technology that would be ready later. And we couldn't wait."

Sprint continues to ready its first wave of markets, which it's planning to launch by the middle of 2012, with LTE-Advanced in 2013.

Article updated March 30, 2012 to correct the timeline for Sprint's LTE network launch.