Networking

Clearwire Brings WiMax 4G/3G Hardware to Macs

WiMax service provider Clearwire on Thursday introduced its first 4G/3G modem that works with Mac laptops, as well as its first Wi-Fi hotspots with integrated 4G or 4G/3G radios.

The announcement of the Clear 4G+ Mobile USB (Series S) brings Mac users fully into the Clearwire fold at last. Last July, the company introduced a dual-mode USB modem that worked only with Windows PCs and said it would offer Mac support by year's end. Due to technical issues, Clearwire wasn't able to deliver that last year, according to company representative Mike DiGioia. The company already sells a WiMax-only USB modem that can be used with Macs.

Clearwire continues to expand its WiMax footprint, which is scheduled to reach 120 million potential customers by the end of this year, but currently offers the service in only 34 markets, home to 51 million people. To serve users who need connectivity across the U.S., Clearwire still relies on the 3G EV-DO (Evolution-Data Optimized) network of its majority owner, Sprint Nextel. Clearwire says its network offers between 3M bps and 6M bps on average, with bursts of more than 10M bps. Sprint's 3G delivers less than 1M bps on average.

The Series S device is Clearwire's new dual-mode mobile modem, designed for both PCs and Macs to use on the Clearwire WiMax network where available and on the Sprint network elsewhere. The modem can be used with MacBook and MacBook Pro units running Mac OS X versions 10.5.x and 10.6.x. It is also compatible with netbooks and laptops running Windows 7, Vista and XP SP2 in both 32-bit and 64-bit modes. The Series S is available now online and in stores in Atlanta, Dallas, Hawaii, and Harrisburg, Lancaster, Reading and York, Pennsylvania. On July 1, it will hit Clearwire stores in all 4G markets.

Clearwire is also streamlining its hotspot products, which let users bring several devices onto a wireless WAN via Wi-Fi. For the first time, the company is offering an integrated device for this purpose. It has been selling a hotspot unit that had to have a USB modem plugged into it. The new devices will save subscribers the cost of buying two pieces of hardware, DiGioia said.

The Clear Spot 4G+ is Clearwire's version of Sprint's popular Overdrive dual-mode unit, made by Sierra Wireless. It can automatically switch from Clearwire's to Sprint's network and back as needed. Users can wirelessly connect as many as five Wi-Fi devices to the hotspot simultaneously. Clearwire estimates battery life as long as three hours for continuous use. The dual-mode product will go on sale next month for US$224.99, or $5.99 per month for a lease, and it can be preordered now.

The Clear Spot 4G is a WiMax-only hotspot specific to Clearwire. It allows subscribers to link as many as eight Wi-Fi devices to a single WiMax connection and has an estimated battery life of four hours. The 4G product, made by InfoMark, is available for preorder now and will go on sale next month for a purchase price of $99.99 or a monthly lease of $4.99.

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