KIRKLAND, Wash. ( TheStreet) -- Sprint ( S) partner Clearwire ( CLWR) has announced the next 7 cities in its rollout of 4G wireless services.

The new cities are Eugene, Ore., Merced and Visalia, Calif., Yakima and Tri-Cities, Wash., and Rochester and Syracuse in upstate New York. With today's announcement, WiMax specialist Clearwire now offers 4G services in 44 locations across the U.S., covering 51 million people.
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With consumers and businesses clamoring for faster data speeds, Clearwire has said that its 4G service will be offered in at least 61 locations by the end of the year.

Clearwire's 4G plans will have a major impact on its partner, Sprint. The telecom giant is in third place in the wireless market, behind AT&T ( T) and Verizon ( VZ), but is the trailblazer for high-speed 4G networks.

Sprint launched its first 4G network in Baltimore in September 2008 and is working closely with Clearwire to bolster its 4G coverage. The Overland Park, Kan.-based telco expects its 4G service to cover up to 120 million people by the end of 2010.

During his keynote at CTIA earlier this year, Sprint CEO Dan Hesse also predicted that 4G will prove crucial in sectors such as healthcare, education and video surveillance.

Unlike AT&T and Verizon, Sprint has thrown its weight behind the WiMax flavor of 4G, while its rivals have championed Long Term Evolution (LTE). During his CTIA address, Hesse explained that the company's decision to follow the WiMax route was driven by the company's need to quickly build out its 4G network .

Sprint also unveiled the world's first 4G smartphone at CTIA, further cementing its relationship with Clearwire.

Despite all the buzz surrounding 4G, there is some skepticism about when the technology will deliver investor upside. Ericsson ( ERIC) CFO Jan Frykhammar, for example, has warned that 4G will not generate significant revenue until 2012.

-- Reported by James Rogers in New York

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