Sprint has just announced two mobile hotspots and a USB modem from Novatel and Netgear that are the company's first devices with tri-band LTE, meaning they're able top operate on the 800, 1900, and 2500MHz bands. Most of its existing devices support 1900MHz alone, which is the only band of LTE that Sprint has currently deployed.

Clearwire is still locked in a heated tug-of-war

800MHz will be coming soon — it's being freed up as Sprint powers down its legacy Nextel network next month. The 2500MHz spectrum, meanwhile, would come from Clearwire, which is in the midst of switching over from WiMAX to LTE and is currently locked in a heated acquisition tug-of-war between Sprint and Dish. There's no guarantee yet that Sprint will have access to this network in the long term if Dish manages to outbid Sprint's latest higher offer, but the idea is that the 2500MHz coverage would help augment LTE speeds in ultra-dense areas — New York City, for instance — since it's not great at propagating over longer distances.

The carriers hasn't announced launch dates or prices for any of the devices, but the strategy is well-worn: it's pretty common for operators to launch modems and mobile hotspots using new network technologies before smartphones, since they're simpler and less sensitive to the bulkier designs that are common of first-generation hardware. Still, Sprint says that tri-band LTE phones will be coming from Samsung and LG "before the end of the year."