Clearwire Targets WiMax For L.A., Other Cities In 2010

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Clearwire, whose backers include Comcast and Time Warner Cable, said it plans to launch WiMax service in Los Angeles and Miami among at least 13 other markets this year -- and the broadband wireless provider also took some shots at AT&T's constrained 3G network.

Clearwire said "consumers unsatisfied with the speeds and limitations of 3G networks, or the need to seek out Wi-Fi hotspots" can use its Clear Spot device (listed at $139.99) that creates a personal Wi-Fi hotspot for up to eight users in conjunction with a WiMax modem. That's clearly a reference to AT&T, which is backing the competing LTE 4G wireless technology but has not commercially launched it yet. AT&T's 3G data network has been notoriously strained by demand from Apple's iPhone and other smartphones.

"Across our 4G markets today, we're experiencing data usage levels that could shake the rest of the wireless industry to its core," Clearwire CEO Bill Morrow said in a statement. "On average, our mobile 4G customers are using more than 7 GB of data per month, and we're very pleased about the implications."

Pointedly, the company noted that any off-the-shelf Wi-Fi device -- including the forthcoming Apple iPad -- is supported by the Clear Spot device. Later this year, Clearwire expects to introduce a Clear Spot model with integrated WiMax technology.

Today Clearwire provides WiMax service in 27 U.S. markets and expects to cover up to 120 million people by the end of 2010. The service delivers average mobile download speeds of 3 to 6 Mbps with bursts of more than 10 Mbps, the company claims.

Clearwire previously indicated that new 4G markets scheduled to launch in 2010 would include New York City, Houston, Boston, Washington, D.C., Kansas City, Denver, Minneapolis and the San Francisco Bay Area. In addition, the service is set to come to L.A., Miami, St. Louis, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Pittsburgh and Salt Lake City, the company said.

Clearwire said additional cities will be announced later this year. While Clearwire will launch service in Houston in the next few weeks, and the majority of the new 4G markets will launch toward the end of the year.

Clearwire is majority owned by Sprint Nextel. Other investors include Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Bright House Networks, Intel and Google.

In addition, the company announced that it has embarked on a series of initiatives to deliver faster service to end users, increase its microwave backhaul capacity and improve the energy efficiency of its thousands of base stations across the U.S. Clearwire said it will expand its cell site capacities by doubling the number of transmitters and receivers per site, thereby boosting potential end-user speeds by upward of 30%.

Clearwire said it will perform upgrades "on a rolling basis" across its network footprint and has already completed them in some of the company's existing markets, including Seattle, Honolulu and Maui.

Finally, Clearwire said a new WiMax-enabled device -- the Dell Inspiron Mini 10 netbook -- will be available April 1 for $249.99 after rebate from various retailers. The company says 30 different 4G-ready devices that use Intel wireless chip sets are available from manufacturers including Dell, Lenovo, Fujitsu, Samsung and Toshiba.

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