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Clearwire WiMax Driver for Mac Due Next Month

Clearwire next month will finally introduce client software for linking Apple Macintosh laptops directly to its WiMax service, as well as introducing a dual-mode USB modem for WiMax and Sprint Nextel's 3G network.

The would-be national WiMax carrier offers tabletop and USB modems, and in April it introduced the Clear Spot standalone modem with built-in Wi-Fi. But so far, it has only provided Windows drivers, so Mac users have not been able to use the Clear service directly, though they can hook up via Wi-Fi through the US$139.99 Clear Spot. On Aug. 17, Clearwire will begin offering a Mac driver as a free download for customers, according to Mike Sievert, chief commercial officer.

Clearwire doesn't offer a driver for Linux devices to use its modems, but someday the company will offer open-source code for outside developers to write their own drivers, according to CTO John Saw.

On Aug. 1, Clear will start selling the Clear 4G+ modem, a USB device that can connect users' laptops to WiMax service where available and to Sprint Nextel's 3G EV-DO (Evolution-Data Optimized) network in other areas. It is the company's first major step to overcome its limited national coverage area. The device will cost $79.99 after an instant rebate. A service plan including WiMax and Sprint 3G service will be available for $80 per month with a two-year contract. The dual-mode service will be available for Macs in the fourth quarter.

Clearwire announced the upcoming products as it launched commercial WiMax service in Las Vegas, its fourth major market. The Las Vegas network covers 638 square miles of the city's metropolitan area and reaches 1.7 million potential customers, according to Clearwire. It joins Baltimore, Atlanta and Portland, Oregon. Clearwire will turn on WiMax in other cities, including Chicago, Philadelphia and Dallas, before the end of the year, as well as convert from its older proprietary wireless system in markets including Seattle and Hawaii. The carrier plans to serve 80 markets with 120 million people by the end of next year.

The Clear WiMax service delivers 3Mb per second (Mbps) to 6Mbps, with bursts as high as 10Mbps, according to Clearwire. It starts at $20 per month for home and $30 per month for mobile service, and combined plans are also available. A day pass costs $10.

August will also see the release of one of the first handheld devices equipped for use on the Clear network, Samsung's Mondi, according to Clearwire. Samsung unveiled the MID (mobile Internet device) in April and said it would be available from Clearwire in the second quarter. The device runs Windows Mobile 6.1 and features Wi-Fi and a slide-out QWERTY keyboard. Pricing was not provided.

The Clear service and devices are sold online, at Clear stores and at select retail stores. They are available at six Best Buy and 24 RadioShack stores in the Las Vegas area, Clearwire said. The ultimate vision is to have most client devices sold through retail stores instead of Clearwire.

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