Clearwire WiMax Coming to 10 Cities on Sept. 1

Clearwire will add 10 markets -- though relatively small ones -- to the four-city coverage area of its fledgling WiMax network on Sept. 1.

The carrier, formed last year, aims to reach 120 million potential customers with its Clear brand WiMax service by the end of 2010, but the service is only commercially available in four cities today: Baltimore, Atlanta, Las Vegas and Portland, Oregon. Clearwire has offered wireless broadband based on pre-standard technology in many other U.S. markets, and WiMax is available in beta testing in some of those locations already.

On Sept. 1, WiMax will become a full-fledged commercial service in 10 of those existing markets. Eight of them are in Texas: Abilene, Amarillo, Corpus Christi, Killeen-Temple, Lubbock, Midland-Odessa, Waco and Wichita Falls. The other two are Bellingham, Washington, and Boise, Idaho. Service will be available first from the Clear Web site and later from other retailers, the company said.

Clearwire is selling WiMax service plans both for a fixed location, such as a home or business, and for use anywhere around a city. Fixed plans start at US$20 per month and mobile services at $30 per month, for a claimed average speed of between 3Mb per second (Mbps) and 6Mbps. Three cable operators that invested in Clearwire last year also plan to resell the service as a wireless complement to their fixed-line broadband plans. Comcast already offers it in Portland.

Clearwire's biggest challenges in taking on cable, DSL (digital subscriber line) and 3G (third-generation) mobile services are offering a wide range of devices and building up a useful coverage area. Several manufacturers sell laptops and netbooks that can use the WiMax service, but Clearwire only sells one handheld WiMax device, the Samsung Mondi MID (mobile Internet device). On Aug. 1, it introduced the Clear 4G+ Modem, a USB dongle that effectively extends service to a true national footprint. The 4G+ Modem uses Clearwire's WiMax service where it is available and switches to Sprint Nextel's 3G mobile data service in other areas.

Several large cities, including Chicago, Philadelphia, Dallas-Fort Worth, Seattle, Honolulu and Charlotte, North Carolina, are also in line for commercial WiMax launches this year. New York, Boston, Washington, D.C., Houston and the San Francisco Bay Area are promised in 2010.

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