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Google has handed out a new mobile phone running its Android software to some employees, stirring another wave of speculation that the oft-rumored Google Phone is real, reports PC World. Others say the so-called Google phone is exactly what Google says it is — a way to test a bunch of advanced Android features on a friendly user base before they go public.

In a blog post on Saturday morning, Google said the phones are being distributed so that workers can experiment with new mobile features. It did not say the device will use Google-branded hardware.

But a podcast producer for CNET said Friday he had seen one of the phones, with hardware made by HTC, said Jason Howell, and he saw one running on AT&T’s network. The phones were given to employees unlocked, he said. Because it is unlocked, workers could also choose to use T-Mobile (which currently offers Android phones).

But what about WiMAX? Clearwire launched their WiMAX Innovation Network in Silicon Valley this September. The developer network is a precursor to commercial service planned for the San Francisco Bay Area in 2010, and will cover more than 20 square miles in Santa Clara, Mountain View and parts of downtown Palo Alto, California.

At least one WiMAX Android phone (above) makes use of D2’s mCUE converged communications client powered with the OMAP-3430 processor (the ARM Cortex-A8) from Texas Instruments, and Beceem’s BCSM250 WiMAX modem, the same chip in Clear’s USB modem.

A GSM/WiMAX phone would have an expanded market. A telco/cable partnership could offer voice over WiFi in the home while lowering video bandwidth demands on cellular networks. WiMAX has about ten times the channel space of cellular-based LTE using the AWS or 700 MHz bands.

Clearwire CEO Bill Morrow promises WiMAX smartphones by Christmas of 2010. While a Sprint/WiMAX phone feels like a done deal, a T-Mobile/Comcast/Google phone might deliver mobile video and free navigation, unlike mobile phones from Cox Cable.

HTC’s roadmap for the first half of 2010 shows lots of Android phones. CCS Insight forecasts more than 50 Android devices will ship next year.

In 2010, Clearwire plans to launch 4G service in the San Francisco Bay Area, as well as New York, Boston, Washington, D.C., and Houston and hopes to bring CLEAR to 80 markets covering up to 120 million people by the end of 2010. Google has invested $500 million in the Clear Network.

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