Clear to Roam Beyond Vegas
Clearwire service has been available to residents since June, but the “soft launch” is now over as the market goes commercial. The Kirkland, Wash.-based operator says that the service covers “approximately 1.7 million residents across 638 square miles” in the Vegas area. The WiMax provider is using infrastructure from Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT) and backhaul gear from Ciena Corp. (NYSE: CIEN) to launch the service. (See Moto in Clear in Vegas and Ciena in the Clear.)
The Vegas launch date is also significant, however, because there is finally some movement toward allowing more roaming between the Clear mobile WiMax markets and Sprint’s existing 3G network. Sprint initially launched its $80 “4G Now” dual-mode WiMax and 3G USB card in December 2008 and had been promising that it would get to more Clearwire markets this summer. (See Sprint Lets WiMax Users Escape From Baltimore and Sprint: How Soon Is '4G Now'?)
Sprint now says that it will start offering services over Clearwire’s Atlanta, Las Vegas, and Portland, Ore. markets on Aug. 1. Like Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK), Sprint operates as a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO), piggybacking services on top of the Clearwire network. (See Sprint: How Soon Is '4G Now'?)
Clearwire will also start to offer WiMax-to-3G roaming on Aug. 1. The company will launch the "Clear 4G+” mobile USB product next month; this will allow Clear users to roam onto the Sprint network.
Moreover, Clearwire is now trying to extend its appeal beyond PC cards with new products for Mac owners in the wings. Clearwire says that Mac laptops will be able to use its existing WiMax-only USB modem beginning Aug. 17 with the introduction of the “Clear Connection Manager software for Mac.” Dual-mode Clear 4G+ mobile USB service is expected to be available for Macintosh in the fourth quarter.
Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. (Korea: SEC) is also expected to launch the “Mondi” in August. This tablet-style device will be the first handheld gadget available for the Clear network. (See WiMax Gizmos Galore!)
— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Unstrung