Clearwire Opens WiMax 'Sandbox' In Silicon Valley

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Clearwire has launched a WiMax test network in Silicon Valley that will cover 20 square miles, aimed at fostering the development of broadband wireless applications by Google and other tech firms in the area.

The current coverage footprint of the WiMax "sandbox" includes the local campuses of Intel and Google, which hold stakes in Clearwire along with Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks. Clearwire's majority owner is Sprint Nextel.

The test network in Santa Clara, Mountain View and parts of downtown Palo Alto, Calif., is a precursor to commercial service planned for the San Francisco Bay Area in 2010, according to the company.

"Our goal is to harness the concentration of developer talent in Silicon Valley and accelerate the pace at which these disruptive services are being developed," Clearwire chief technology officer John Saw said in a statement.

Clearwire advertises its WiMax network as providing peak download speeds of up to 10 Mbps, with an average of 3 to 6 Mbps down -- similar to Wi-Fi, but with a much wider service area, according to the company.

The test network will be expanded to cover Cisco Systems' campus in the coming months, Clearwire said. Cisco is the wireless company's primary IP networking infrastructure provider.

Service will be provided free to a limited number of qualified developers leading up to the commercial service launch. To access the network, developers can purchase a WiMax USB modem from Clearwire for $49.99.

Clearwire's cable operator backers issued statements supporting the Silicon Valley test network.

"Comcast is pleased to support this development program to spur further innovation with 4G capabilities," said Tom Nagel, Comcast's senior vice president and general manager for wireless. "The initiative is consistent with our own commitment and efforts to encourage developers to leverage open standards such as Tru2way."

"Time Warner Cable looks to provide services that are simple, easy to use and give customers more control and convenience," said Michael Roudi, group vice president of wireless services for Time Warner Cable. "We are proud to support the efforts of developers in the Silicon Valley to experiment and create new applications which will take advantage of the mobile broadband network and enhance our customer's wireless experience."

Bright House, for its part, is "strongly supportive of this initiative and its ability to leverage the creative talent of developers in the region for the creation of new mobile broadband applications," commented Leo Cloutier, the operator's senior vice president of strategy and business development.

To date, Clearwire has launched commercial service in 14 markets, including Baltimore, Atlanta, Portland, Ore., and Las Vegas.

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