Clearwire Tries for Coolness With Pay-As-You-Go 4G

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Clearwire Tries for Coolness With Pay-As-You-Go 4G
If you can put up with Clearwire's obnoxious marketing, the new "Rover" pay-as-you-go 4G service actually seems like a good idea.

Clearwire pitches Rover as prepaid 4G broadband service "for tech-savvy Gen Y customers," designed for "digitally addicted youth who refuse to settle for long-term contracts, overpriced internet service, or speeds slower than what they've become accustomed to at home."

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I'm a "Gen Y" customer and I find the attempt at hip marketing lingo somewhat lame. Here are the facts: Rover provides unlimited 4G data coverage without a contract in 49 U.S. markets (here's the coverage map). It costs $5 per day, $20 per week or $50 month. To use the service, you'll need either a "Rover Puck" wireless hotspot, which costs $150, or a "Rover Stick" USB dongle, priced at $100.

Clearwire 4G has average download speeds of 3Mbps to 6Mbps, and peaks of 10Mbps, which the company says is four times faster than conventional 3G.

Contract Free 4G Service

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Because Clearwire 4G is not ubiquitous, pay-as-you-go makes sense for travelers or people don't know where they'll be living a year from now. And the single day coverage is tempting if you like to occasionally work in a park or somewhere else that lacks Wi-Fi. Sprint, by comparison, doesn't make it easy to buy 4G coverage without a contract. All its modems require a two-year contract when purchased online, and the service itself is more expensive, priced at $10 per day and $60 per month (although Sprint devices can also revert back to 3G coverage, which Clearwire cannot).

I just wish Clearwire wasn't trying so hard to be cool. A Rover marketing campaign will spotlight J.T. Holmes, a base jumper who will apparently demonstrate how 3G fits into his extreme lifestyle. Clearwire also plans to dole out Rover activity badges to customers in a sorry attempt to emulate Foursquare. Then there's the Rover website, rife with innuendo and cringe-inducing puns. "Puck Yeah," proclaims one page. I'm thinking "Puck This."

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