Comcast Hits Sac With 4G, Clearwire Bows In Bay Area

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Comcast launched high-speed wireless data service in the Sacramento, Calif., area on Clearwire's WiMax-based 4G network, while Clearwire went live with its Clear-branded service in the San Francisco Bay Area.

In the San Francisco metro area, Clearwire's network covers more than 4 million people, extending from San Francisco and Oakland to South Bay including San Jose and the 680 corridor from Concord to Pleasanton. The company -- whose backers include Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Bright House Networks, Intel and Google -- advertises average mobile download speeds of 3 to 6 Mbps with bursts over 10 Mbps.

Comcast also expects to roll out Clearwire-provided service in the San Francisco area. A Comcast spokesman said the MSO's wireless market launches usually follow Clearwire's by a few weeks, noting that Comcast will probably launch in the Bay Area in January 2011.

In the Sacramento area, Comcast on Tuesday launched the Xfinity Internet 2go service in Davis, Elk Grove, Folsom and Roseville. Last month Comcast launched the service in Stockton, Modesto, Lathrop and Visalia. Comcast's California region serves more than 2.3 million customers in Northern and Central California.

Comcast sells three different service plans: Xfinity Internet 2go Metro, a 4G-only data service; Internet 2go Nationwide, which uses a 3G-only data card that operates on Sprint's national 3G network; and Internet 2go Nationwide Preferred (4G/3G) service, which delivers 4G service plus access to Sprint's national 3G network.

The MSO's pricing starts at $40 per month for the first 12 months as an add-on to wired broadband service.

Clearwire's pricing in most markets for unlimited 4G coverage starts at $35 per month for the home while unlimited mobile plans start at $45 per month. With the San Francisco launch, the company is offering a limited-time, online-only mobile Internet promotion that provides a 50% discount on service plans for the first two months, with overnight shipping included and no activation fee.

To date Clearwire has launched has Clear 4G service in 71 U.S. markets. The company has said it expects to have more than 4 million retail and wholesale subscribers by the end of 2010.

Clearwire has run low on cash in recent quarters following its aggressive network buildout plan, under which it was targeting coverage of 120 million people by year-end. This month, the company announced plans to raise more than $1.1 billion through a debt offering, which should keep it afloat through at least the end of 2011.

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