Clearwire Launches on the Costa del Sol

Clearwire LLC (Nasdaq: CLWR), best known for its high-profile rollout in the U.S., has launched a mobile WiMax service in Malaga, Spain, covering a metropolitan population of almost 600,000. (See Clearwire Launches in Malaga and Clearwire Launches in Seattle, Opens Retail Stores.)

The service, called Instanet, offers average downlink speeds of 3Mbit/s to 6Mbit/s, with service plans starting at €29.90 (US$42.85) per month. Alvarion Technologies Ltd. (Nasdaq: ALVR) is the service provider's vendor supplier for Malaga. (See Clearwire Picks Alvarion in Spain.)

This is Clearwire's first next-generation mobile data service in Europe, but likely won't be the last, as it plans to launch in another Spanish city, Seville, in 2010, and also holds spectrum licenses in Belgium, Germany, Ireland, Poland, Romania, and Denmark (through an affiliate). (See Clearwire Takes WiMax to Spain.)

Clearwire is launching in Spain against significant entrenched competition. Although the company is stressing the benefits of broadband-on-the-move, and claims to be able to provide a superior service to 3G, it is up against the might of national incumbent Telefónica Móviles SA , as well as Vodafone España S.A. , Orange Spain , and Telia Company 's Yoigo, all of which have launched HSPA-based mobile broadband services (downlink speeds of at least 3Mbit/s), and which have millions of existing customers between them.

Spanish users also have a number of telco and cable operator choices for fixed broadband service bundles, a number of which include TV and video-on-demand (VoD) offerings.

That's not all. Fixed WiMax services are already being marketed in Malaga by wireless broadband specialist Nostracom Telecomunicaciones , which offers a 2Mbit/s service for €34,95 US$50.08) per month.

And local reports suggest that Telefónica SA (NYSE: TEF) also has significant WiMax aspirations, building on the majority (51 percent) stake it owns in WiMax operator Iberbanda. The reports say it has placed a large WiMax infrastructure order with ZTE Corp. (Shenzhen: 000063; Hong Kong: 0763), which is also supplying gear to Clearwire for its planned launch in Seville. (See Aperto Wins in Spain.)

But the new entrant can take heart from the progress of other WiMax operators that have launched in mobile-saturated markets. In Russia, for example, Yota has made early headway with its mobile WiMax service, and is now launching in other markets. (See Yota: A Model WiMax Startup? and Yota Uses Samsung WiMax in Nicaragua.)

— Ray Le Maistre, International Managing Editor, Light Reading

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