Clearwire Fancies Bite of AT&T's Apple

Clearwire LLC (Nasdaq: CLWR) launched a personal hotspot device today just for Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL) mobile products, in a move intended to lure AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T)'s iPhone customers onto its WiMax network.

The new gizmo -- called the iSpot -- connects to Clearwire's WiMax network and provides WiFi access for iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch devices. The hotspot device is configured to support only Apple's mobile products and it achieves this through filtering the MAC addresses of the devices, according to a Clearwire spokesman.

Clearwire claims the $99 device will support average mobile broadband speeds between 3 Mbit/s and 6 Mbit/s, with speed bursts up to 10 Mbit/s, and the operator offers an unlimited mobile data plan for $25 per month.

With this product launch, the WiMax operator has AT&T clearly in its sights.

“With the iSpot, Apple customers don’t have to sort through confusing service plans with overage fees, nor do they have to worry about how much data they’re using,” said Thomas Enraght-Moony, senior vice president of marketing at Clearwire, in a statement.

The iPhone has been a well documented, mixed blessing for AT&T, which is still the exclusive supplier of the iconic device in the US: It has driven subscriber growth, but it has also been a catalyst for severe customer dissatisfaction as iPhone users have been vociferous in their complaints about the carrier's 3G network quality and its recently introduced caps on mobile data usage. (See AT&T's Q2 iBoost, AT&T Intros Mobile Data Caps, WiFi Hotzones: AT&T’s Half-Baked Network Savior, AT&T: Don't Choke Us, Will the Apple iPad Crush 3G Networks?, and AT&T CTO: We Know What's Best for You.)

The iSpot is the third personal hotspot device that Clearwire offers and adds to the Clear Spot 4G, which supports only WiMax, and the Clear Spot 4G+, which supports WiMax and Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S)'s CDMA-based 3G network. (See CTIA 2010: Clearwire, Sprint Push 4G Advantage.)

The first Clear Spot device has been available since March last year, but the operator has not disclosed how many personal hotspot devices it has sold to date.

Clearwire announces second-quarter results later today.

— Michelle Donegan, European Editor, Light Reading Mobile

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