Clearwire Launches in Seattle

Posted by Sam Churchill on

Clearwire is hosting a laser light show from the top of Seattle’s Space Needle tonight around 7:15 p.m. to mark the launch of WiMAX service in Seattle.

The Kirkland company, with more than 1,000 employees worldwide, is the brainchild of Craig McCaw, who built one of the first nationwide cellphone networks, notes the Seattle Times.

Clearwire’s service has been launched in 31 other markets , but the rollout in the Seattle region represents the biggest geographic area the company has moved into, marking one of the most critical steps in Clearwire’s three-year existence.

“It’s a pretty big deal,” said Gerry Purdy, the vice president and chief analyst at Frost and Sullivan, a consulting firm. “It’s a test case for them to see what it is that works and what doesn’t work, and to get them ready for playing in the big leagues.”

The Seattle experience should show how the technology works in a densely populated area and whether consumers, who may already have Internet access, will or will not adopt a new wireless service. There is no setup or software to install on the computer, although Clearwire recommends that the modem be placed near a window, so it can receive a strong signal.

“You can just take this out of the store, talk to no one and it will work,” said McCaw, who shares the title of Clearwire chief executive with Ben Wolff. “It’s not like a cellphone, where there’s all these things behind the scenes, like rate plans and mumbo-jumbo. It’s the easiest.”

The service is sold through stores Clearwire owns, including one opening soon in Bellevue Square, as well as through Best Buy stores, mall kiosks or online. Clearwire offers two rate plans, the main differences being speed and cost.

Coverage in the Seattle area stretches over a potential of 2 million people, from Marysville to Gig Harbor and as far east as Enumclaw, with some uncovered zones in between. The company has a total coverage area of 8 million people, and about 162,000 have subscribed to the service as of September.

It’s not clear whether Clearwire is using their pre-WiMax NextNet gear in Seattle. It’s based on the older fixed standard. Mobile WiMAX service is anticipated by Clearwire next year and should allow people to maintain a connection while in a moving car, using Motorola terminals and basestations. Motorola bought NextNet from Clearwire earlier this year.

Speakeasy has been there, done that.

They launched a pre-WiMAX service, on the Space Needle, back in May, 2005. Speakeasy used Alvarion’s BreezeACCESS VL, with a range up to 12 miles. Speakeasy is delivering services targeted for businesses with speeds up to 6 Mbit/s, and monthly tariffs starting at $500 for a 3-Mbit/s or $800 for 6-Mbit/s service. Clearwire will be slower but cheaper, and competitive with DSL and cable modems service.

According to Wireless Week:

Clearwire also has licenses for 2.5 GHz spectrum covering 210 million people in the United States, he [CEO Ben Wolff] says, including spectrum covering all or parts of 72 of the top 100 markets. The operator, with headquarters in Kirkland, Wash., also has built networks in Europe, with operations up and running in Brussels, Copenhagen and Dublin. In addition, it has nationwide licenses for Poland, Romania and Spain. Wolff says in Brussels, where it offers data rates of 1 Mbps on the uplink and 3 Mbps down, Clearwire is realizing average revenues per user (ARPU) of $35.40 after just nine months of operations.

The carrier provides two levels of access in the United States as alternatives to DSL and cable Internet access. One offers 768-kbps data rates for $29.99 a month, while another is 1.5 Mbps for $36.99. Subscribers can purchase premise equipment or Clearwire rents it for an additional $5 a month.

Roughly 58 percent of Clearwire customers had DSL or cable access in the past; 32 percent formerly used dial-up access; and 10 percent had no access. Nearly two-thirds of the customers use the service in their homes.

Seattle will be a tough market. It’s the most unwired city in America, according to Intel Corporation’s third annual “Most Unwired Cities” survey.

Related DailyWirelesss WiMAX Deployment articles include; Portland Gets Mobile WiMAX?, Clearwire’s $900M Payday, WiMAX World 2006, WiMAX Interop: Good So Far, Maravedis WiMAX Report, Intel Inside Clearwire, Moto in MobileWiMAX Chips, Sprint: It’s WiMAX! and Mobile WiMAX: It Begins.

Posted by Sam Churchill on Wednesday, November 15th, 2006 at 4:34 am .