Clearwire: Let’s be “Clear”

Posted by Sam Churchill on

I want him to know how to holler and put up an argument, I want a little guts to show before I can let him go. I want to be sure he sees all the wild possibilities. I want him to know it’s worth all the trouble just to give the world a little goosing when you get the chance. And I want him to know the subtle, sneaky, important reason why he was born a human being and not a chair.
A Thousand Clowns

Today, Ben Wolff, CEO of Clearwire, held a conference call reviewing the $3.2B investment by Comcast, Time-Warner, Intel, Google, and Brighthouse Networks.

Wolff said their spectrum holdings were “twice that of the 700 Mhz spectrum which sold for almost $20B” and said that their all IP Network would deliver a compelling value proposition, “reinventing wireless”. By combining spectrum from Sprint Nextel, Clearwire “now has 100 MHz or more of 4G spectrum in most markets across the U.S.”

But Wolff said LTE will be an option for the future. “This isn’t a case where one technology will win and one will loose,” said Wolff, after reiterating his company’s commitment to WiMAX. WiMAX, he said, was here now with 80 suppliers and 400 products, and has been proven to work well in Baltimore.

We can’t ignore the fact that many of the operators around the world are talking about deploying LTE,” he said on the conference call. “If LTE truly becomes a global standard, as WiMax has, Clearwire will be well positioned to provide LTE.” Wolff said dual-band, Cellular/WiMAX cards, will be available next year for roaming out of WiMAX territory along with an Android handset.

Portland, Oregon, will launch Clearwire’s Mobile WiMAX this month (December), with Atlanta and Las Vegas to follow early next year, according to Wolff on this morning’s conference call. Grand Rapids, Michigan wasn’t mentioned (a dispute with iPCS over competition in that market is ongoing).

Clearwire’s “pre-WiMAX” networks, such as Seattle, use proprietary, “WiMAX-like” gear from NextNet. Clearwire’s earlier NextNet gear (the company is now owned by Motorola), is not interoperable with Mobile WiMAX. Those cities will be upgraded first. Clearwire’s new Mobile WiMAX cities in Portland, Las Vegas, Atlanta, and Grand Rapids Michigan will use standards-compliant WiMAX gear from Motorola. Sprint is using Samsung infrastructure in Baltimore and Washington DC, while Chicago, Motorola’s home town, is being outfitted with Motorola WiMAX gear (like Portland).

Sprint’s “Xohm” is being rebranded as “Clear”, and Sprint — the cellular phone company — will operate as a virtual network operator, leasing spectrum from Clearwire and bundling dual-mode CDMA/WiMAX cards and services. Comcast and Time-Warner cable will have a similar MVO relationship when they launch mobile services later next year.

The new board, which was just announced today, would make the decision when to launch Sprint’s Washington DC and Chicago markets. Most of the $3.2B cash infusion would go to the network buildout said Wolff.

Wolff said Clearwire’s Board of Directors will initially have eight members. Clearwire founder and wireless pioneer, Craig McCaw, is non-executive chairman of the board.

Along with McCaw, other directors are Dan Hesse, Sprint’s chief executive officer; Keith Cowan, Sprint’s president, strategy and corporate development; John Stanton, chairman and chief executive officer of Trilogy Equity Partners and former chairman and chief executive officer of VoiceStream and Western Wireless; Sean Maloney, executive vice president, chief sales and marketing officer of Intel; Frank Ianna, former president of network services for AT&T; Jose A. Collazo, former head of BT Global Services and former chairman, president and chief executive officer of Infonet Services Corporation; and Dennis Hersch, former global chairman of mergers and acquisitions for JP Morgan. An additional five seats on the board are expected to be filled in the coming weeks.

Wolf stressed the company’s independence, claiming decisions would be made by the company and not investors. Clearwire remains headquartered in Kirkland, Wash. It will continue to have a focused technology and east coast deployment presence in Herndon, Va.

Clearwire’s new mobile WiMAX services will be branded “Clear”. The Clear brand will apply to all new mobile WiMAX services to be offered by Clearwire in the U.S. and will be phased in to those markets where Clearwire offers pre-WiMAX services, as these existing markets are upgraded to mobile WiMAX technology.

UPDATE: I traveled down to Clearwire’s Portland office near the Spaghetti Factory and found that I could sign up for service today — the first day service is available in Portland.

However, since I already bought a Sprint Xohm card (shipped from Baltimore), I planned to wait a few days to see if that card could be provisioned for the Clearwire network in Portland.

Right now only a residential Motorola modem and Motorola’s USB dongle are available.

There’s a $35 activation fee and the USB dongle costs another $49. You can get residential or mobile service (or both with a discount). For residential users (not roaming), Basic (Unlimited) service starts at $20/month for 768 Kbps. The mid-tier is unlimited 3.0 Mbps for $30/month and the top tier is 6.0 Mbps/512 Kbps for $40/month.

With the USB card ($49) you can get 4 Mbps mobile service for $30/month (but Limited to 200 MB transfer a month). The top tier delivers 4.0 Mbps/384 Kbps (Unlimited) for $50/month. Anywhere. Unfortunately, it looks like Clear’s Terms of Service will not allow backhaul from public WiFi hotspots.

What I’d like to do is put my Xohm Express Card in my CradlePoint Mobile Router. Then I could pull it out and slip it into a laptop when I go traveling — and pay for only one account. But that may be wishful thinking (for now). Clearwire will have storefronts in six locations starting in January, including the major malls such as Lloyd Center, Clackamas Town Center and Washington Square as well as a storefront downtown on Broadway.

In the end, I had no sales resistance.

I signed up for 3 Mbps mid-tier (unlimited) service at $30/month with a Motorola CPEi 25150 home modem ($5/mo). Total tab was about $70 with the $35 activation fee. I’ll run a speed test and compare my WiMAX Modem with my 3Mbps Comcast Cable Modem tomorrow.

Related Clearwire and WiMax stories on Dailywireless include; Green Light for New Clearwire, iPCS Withdraws Injuction Against Sprint WiMAX, Clearwire: Show Us the Money, Xohm Marks the Spot, Chicago Xohmed Next?, WiMAX Doomed? Not., Mobile WiMAX: Fast, Cheap and Out of Control?, Mobile WiMAX Cooking- But Still in the Kitchen, WiMAX Roundup, Australia Unwired, Australian Blowup, BT’s European WiMAX Plan, Backhaul Delays Xohm Rollout, Hesse on WiMAX, Sprint’s WiMAX Rollout?, Sprint-Clearwire Deal Dead, Sprint Considering WiMAX Spinoff?, Sprint Forces Forsee Out, WiMAX Demoed on Chicago River, The Launch, ICO Wants Its Mobile TV – via DVB-SH, Google Apps for Clearwire, Sprint WiMAX: It’s Called “Xohm”, Xohm “Partners”?, Death to WiMAX?, Verizon: It’s LTE, and Sprint: It’s WiMAX!

Posted by Sam Churchill on Monday, December 1st, 2008 at 7:51 am .

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