CTIA 2010: Clearwire, Sprint Push 4G Advantage

LAS VEGAS -- International CTIA WIRELESS 2010 -- WiMax operators Clearwire LLC (Nasdaq: CLWR) and Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S) are looking to take a bite out of AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T)'s apple with new devices that will give 4G connectivity to the iconic iPhone and upcoming iPad. (See Clearwire Details WiMax Expansion.)

Clearwire's new Clear Spot device, which the operator launched today at the show, creates a "personal WiFi hotspot" that supports up to eight users. When coupled with a WiMax USB modem, the device can connect any WiFi-enabled device, like Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL)'s iPad or iPhone, to Clearwire's 4G network. (See Apple Opens iPad Pre-Orders and Apple Sets iPad Launch Date for April 3.)

Sprint has a similar device called the Overdrive. A new Sprint ad posted on YouTube Inc. shows how the Overdrive can make the connection speed of the iPhone up to 10 times faster. Sprint's speed comparison, by the way, is based on a download speed comparison of 600 Kbit/s on 3G, versus 6 Mbit/s on WiMax.

Both operators are pitching these products to consumers who are not satisfied with the performance of AT&T's 3G network -- the iPhone's exclusive US carrier -- which has been vilified by users for not being able to handle the surge in mobile data traffic and, more specifically, iPhone usage.

By contrast, Clearwire says its WiMax network delivers speeds that are comparable to DSL, with average mobile download speeds of 3 Mbit/s to 6 Mbit/s and downlink bursts that can be more than 10 Mbit/s. (See Clearwire's 'Jazzed' About Results.)

Another device that Clearwire announced it will start selling (starting April 1) is the Dell Technologies (Nasdaq: DELL) Inspiron Mini 10 netbook with embedded WiMax technology. The price of the netbook is $249.99.

WiMax network expansion plans
WiMax services are available in 27 markets in the US so far. Clearwire announced today new markets that will get services toward the end of this year. These include Los Angeles, Miami, St. Louis, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, and Salt Lake City.

Sprint, which piggybacks on Clearwire's network, also announced that it will roll out services to those cities.

Clearwire also said today that it is upgrading its radio access and backhaul networks as well. Clearwire said it has started to update its network with "advanced signal processing technology" that will potentially boost end user speeds by about 20 to 30 percent. The operator has completed the upgrades in Seattle, Honolulu, and Maui.

In the backhaul network, Clearwire said it is increasing its total microwave capacity by 250 percent and planning to support gigabit per second speeds in high traffic areas.

— Michelle Donegan, European Editor, Light Reading Mobile

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