Wailing the Wireless Broadband Blues

12:00 PM -- Picking on Clearwire LLC (Nasdaq: CLWR) seems way too easy these days, given the company's financial woes and likely loss of its biggest backer in Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S). (See Clearwire's Future Unclear at Sprint and Sprint Network Vision and 4G LTE Plans Should Integrate with Clearwire .)

But I think my recent experience as a Clearwire subscriber reflects on the quality of wireless broadband in general, as a substitute for wireline broadband.

I've used Clearwire for the past two years, not as my primary broadband service, but as a backup, and a useful tool when traveling. It usually works well in many of the places I have to visit regularly -- New York City, Las Vegas and the Washington, D.C., suburbs.

Last week, however, when I was counting on Clearwire so I could continue to work while helping my elderly mom to move, I made a painful discovery. Despite the fact she was moving all of two blocks, the broadband service that was rock solid in one apartment was DOA in the other.

While there were nearby Wi-Fi options, being forced to seek out free hotspots and buy coffee or lunch to use them was not what I had in mind, nor was it conducive to productivity. And it's irritating as hell to pay for a wireless broadband service and find yourself jostling for table space with everyone who hasn't.

As the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) considers wireless options for bringing broadband to unserved areas, and countless TV commercials tout 4G's ability to support video streaming and business applications, is the wireless industry ready to meet consumer expectations for service performance?

For me, that's now a wait and see proposition.

— Carol Wilson, Chief Editor, Events, Light Reading

cnwedit 12/5/2012 | 4:51:08 PM
re: Wailing the Wireless Broadband Blues

I'm well aware of the physics of wireless. 

Believe me, I sought every possible solution, including wandering around the building, trying from multiple windows in multiple locations on multiple floors.  I rapidly became known as the crazy lady with the laptop.

But when you are paying the equivalent price for a wireless service that you do for one that is wired, how many back-bends is the customer expected to do?  And if broadband wireless is to be the only solution for some rural areas, are we expected those consumers to go through that kind of exercise on a regular basis?

For broadband wireless to become the connection of choice, it has to work reliably without depending on end users to do what I attempted last week, with no success.

KC-Kiwi 12/5/2012 | 4:51:08 PM
re: Wailing the Wireless Broadband Blues

Wireless communication is subject to the laws of physics and there is a reason that your reception changed. Instead of treating your situation as though you have lost something that is an inalienable right, why don't you seek a solution.


If your device supports an external antenna that is a place to start, in addition to trying different positioning within the new location.

paolo.franzoi 12/5/2012 | 4:51:08 PM
re: Wailing the Wireless Broadband Blues



That is why I think the idea of BB Wireless as the solution to rural is a wonderful marketing idea but no basis in reality.  The IOCs have spent a boatload to roll out DSL and Fiber.  The problem is (to be blunt) the rural properties of US West and AT&T.  Now that Century owns US West we shall see what happens there.  Verizon has been dumping their rural properties as fast as possible (but my parents still live in one that can not get DSL but can get a cable modem).



rhr 12/5/2012 | 4:50:55 PM
re: Wailing the Wireless Broadband Blues Carol, henceforth-GThe crazy lady with a laptopG, you raise an excellent point.-

With all the discussion of m-2-m communications - I notice the AT&T hyper-connected world story on LR-- operators are getting excited about the potential of the tenfold growth in wireless connections (5Bn people going to 50Bn devices) but will all be connectable?-

Does m-2-m mean operators must improve network coverage? Or will cars hit dead zones, surveillance cameras will need to be moved to get a connection etc? The answer most likely will be more of the same or it could get worse due to the increased competition. Maybe in future you'll also be jostling with machines in a coffee shop looking for a connection.
jepovic 12/5/2012 | 4:49:03 PM
re: Wailing the Wireless Broadband Blues

The laws of physics are important of course, but I suspect the laws of economics are more important in this case. It's very expensive to build wireless coverage, especially in the sparsely populated cities of the US.

timkridel 12/5/2012 | 4:49:03 PM
re: Wailing the Wireless Broadband Blues

Speak it, sister. I live in a city -- Columbia, Mo. -- that's geographically larger than San Francisco, yet Clearwire has only one site serving the entire metro. The only time I flip my EVO to 4G is when I'm in that part of town. 

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