Long before Sprint launched its 4G LTE network, the carrier was focused on its 4G WiMAX network that it eventually rolled out to a total of 71 markets. Sprint released a number of different WiMAX-capable phones during that rollout, including the EVO 4G and Epic 4G, before announcing in March 2012 that it would not be launching any new WiMAX products. We haven't heard much about Sprint's WiMAX plans since then, but it's been discovered that the carrier recently added a new paragraph to its terms and conditions that explains what options contract customers will have once the WiMAX network shuts down.
The paragraph, which is said to have been added on May 22, says that Sprint has the right to migrate a customer's service from WiMAX to LTE at any time during his or her contract term. Sprint says that it will give notice when it plans to do so, adding that customers will have a few different options for their future once the carrier decides to make that move. Consumers affected by the change will be able to continue using their WiMAX hardware without any WiMAX connectivity, deactivate service without incurring an early termination fee or transition from WiMAX to LTE. Customers that select the transition option will be given a "free standard Sprint LTE-capable device" and will be allowed to continue using their existing service plan.
Sprint hasn't said exactly how long it plans to continue offering WiMAX service, but the carrier has an agreement with Clearwire that gives it access to the WiMAX network through at least 2015. Interestingly, Sprint is still selling several pre-owned WiMAX phones on its website for free on contract, including the EVO 4G and Epic 4G. While picking up one of those phones may not be the best decision ever, at least Sprint has now revealed what options its customers with WiMAX hardware will have should the WiMAX network get shutdown during their commitment term. The new contract terms related to Sprint's WiMAX service can be found below.
"New Agreements on the Sprint 4G (WiMAX) Network: Your Service on a device activated on the Sprint 4G (WiMAX) Network may require a new one or two-year Agreement per line. Sprint expressly reserves the right to migrate your Service during this Agreement term from the Sprint 4G (WiMAX) Network to the Sprint 4G LTE network to complete your Agreement term. Reasonable advance notice of the Service change will be provided to impacted customers, who can then select one of the following options: (a) Choose to complete the Agreement term using your existing device without 4G (WiMAX) capability (b) Elect to complete the Agreement term by contacting us after receiving notice from Sprint to transition to the Sprint 4G LTE network with no additional term commitment required (Transition Option)(c) Deactivate service. Deactivations because of this Service change will not result in an Early Termination Fee (ETF). Transition Option: If you select the Transition Option, you will receive a free standard Sprint LTE capable device and can maintain your existing Service plan, if available. During the Agreement term, Sprint may provide other offers that are separate from the Transition Option, and these offers will be subject to a new two-year Agreement per line."