WiMax Speeds Ahead: Sprint, Clearwire Unveil Dual-Mode Router

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Sprint and Clearwire's WiMax plans seem to be moving ahead. Sprint announced today that on December 21 it will begin selling a dual-mode WiMax/CDMA router ($149.99 after a $50 rebate) with a two-year contract. The modem is the first of its kind and will work on the Sprint-Clearwire 4G wireless broadband system that is being rolled out across the United States by Sprint, Clearwire, Intel and other tech partners.

Baltimore was the first market to get 4G access from Sprint's Xohm service, which is now marketed under the "Clear" banner. Earlier this week, Clearwire and Intel announced that the Wimax service will launch in Portland, Oregon in January.

Clearwire claims its network will put 3G broadband speeds to shame with average download speeds between 2-4Mbits/second, and early indications seems to support that view. When ComputerWorld's Brian Naden tested Baltimore's WiMax system he said the service was almost three times faster than AT&T's 3G network with far fewer connection problems.

Not only is WiMax fast, but it could be a solution to deliver broadband access to rural communties. One of WiMax's biggest benefits is its capability to send a broadband wireless signal over 30 miles from the nearest cell tower.

The new WiMax network has been a long time coming and has included an on-again, off-again relationship between Sprint and Clearwire. The companies first signed a letter of intent in July 2007 to build a nationwide WiMax network together, but that agreement was quashed only a few months later. Sprint then went through a management change that put its own WiMax future in doubt, but eventually built its own 4G test network, called Xohm, in Baltimore.

Since then Sprint and Clearwire have merged their WiMax operations, and-- with partners Intel, Google, Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks-- they have an ambitious plan to roll out WiMax service to the top 100 U.S. markets by the end of 2010.

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