Sprint will start selling its Overdrive wireless WiMax router on Jan. 10, allowing users to connect any Wi-Fi-enabled device to its WiMax network.Sprint Overdrive CES

Overdrive connects to Sprint’s WiMax or 3G network and can be used to link up to five Wi-Fi-enabled devices. The device, which is portable, will cost $100 with a two-year service contract that costs $60 per month. The monthly service contract includes unlimited data over Sprint’s WiMax network and 5GB of data over the 3G network.

The release of Overdrive comes as Sprint looks to expand the reach of its WiMax network, which currently covers a population of 30 million people living in 27 U.S. markets. By the end of this year, Sprint plans to quadruple that, to 120 million people, Sprint CEO Dan Hesse told attendees at a press conference ahead of the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

Sprint hopes Overdrive will entice more people to try WiMax.

Among the hurdles that WiMax faces are a lack of devices that support the technology and limited coverage areas. Overdrive can help to overcome these problems, allowing users to access the Internet with any device that uses Wi-Fi. In addition, the ability to switch between the WiMax and 3G networks means users can still access the Internet in areas that aren’t covered by the WiMax network.

The Overdrive is Sprint’s WiMax dream, in a little box. And mine too, I confess: Real broadband that I can shove in my pocket and take anywhere, a teleporting Wi-Fi hotspot.

WiMax is pretty quick at its best, but speed depends almost proportionately on signal—in Las Vegas, at 100 percent, we were getting around 3.5Mbps downstream and close to 1Mbps up, but at 40 percent, we got 1.57Mbps downstream and around 0.3Mbps up, and more than a couple dropped connections. Latency stayed around 155ms. When it was at full strength, it feels a whole lot like real broadband.

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