Comcast just became the wireless Internet vendor to beat by offering 4G wireless Internet in Portland, Oregon. Leveraging Clearwire’s WiMax network, this move leaves LTE (Long-Term Evolution), the competing technology, a step behind.
The new service, called Comcast High-Speed 2go, offers speeds of up to 4Mbps. The Fast Pack Metro package is aggressively sold at an introductory rate of $49.99 a month, which also includes a 12Mbps home Internet service and a free Wi-Fi router. After the first year, the rate jumps to a still-competitive $73 per month. An additional $20 adds nationwide 3G data service to the package, provided by Sprint Nextel (the majority owner of Clearwire). Existing Comcast broadband customers can pick up the service for an additional $30 for local and $50 for nationwide.
The offer bests Verizon Wireless’s current offering of 3G wireless Internet with speeds ranging from 600kbps to1.4Mpbs and a 5GB cap ($.05 per MB after) for $59.95 per month.
Comcast intends to launch the service in Chicago, Atlanta, and Philadelphia by the end of 2009. Clearwire additionally intends to deploy WiMax in Las Vegas, Charlotte, Dallas, and Honolulu later this year.
This bold move beats LTE to market and gives Comcast a competitive edge in the rapidly changing wireless broadband market.
WiMax is a competitor to the emerging LTE standard, which is supported by Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile. While LTE could potentially offer speeds of 5 to 10Mbs, WiMax is headed for early market dominance and it could take years for LTE to catch up. Both networks are IP-based and were designed to move data rather than voice. WiMax is based on open standards, and the equipment is therefore cheaper to make.
It’s speculated that eventually the networks could merge, giving customers more options for nationwide service.
Either way, this is a win for customers who hunger for faster wireless connectivity. With the Internet becoming the default channel for distributing video and voice communications, and laptops and netbooks dominating the PC market, people are demanding faster Internet 2go. So far, Comcast and Clearwire are holding the ace.
Michael Scalisi is an IT manager based in Alameda, California.