Clearwire, Sprint Close WiMax Deal

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Sprint Nextel and wireless wide-area network operator Clearwire have completed a deal to create a new company and build a nationwide WiMax network with help from Intel, Google and three cable operators.

The deal, announced in May, brings together Sprint's and Clearwire's radio spectrum holdings and fledgling WiMax operations under a new company that will retain the Clearwire name. The new company also said it has received a previously announced investment of US$3.2 billion from Intel, Google, Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks.

Clearwire plans to offer a mobile WiMax service, called Clear, with average downstream speeds of 2M bps (bits per second) to 4M bps. The merged spectrum holdings give the new Clearwire 100MHz or more of spectrum in most markets across the U.S., according to the company. Sprint's WiMax service in the Baltimore area, under the Xohm brand name, will gradually transition to the Clear name. As Clearwire converts its pre-WiMax mobile broadband services in several markets to standard WiMax, those will take on the Clear name as well, the company said.

The new venture aims to offer an alternative to traditional mobile services from carriers as well as wired broadband. It promises to make its client devices available through retailers, with no carrier subsidy and no term contracts for subscribers, as well as unfettered standard Internet access.

WiMax offers higher speeds than typical 3G (third-generation) mobile networks and is the only so-called 4G technology commercially available until LTE (Long-Term Evolution) goes on sale, probably in 2010 or later. But the ailing Sprint only began its long-delayed commercial Xohm service in late September and currently offers it only in Baltimore.

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