WiMAX gets Clear signal in Portland

The new Clearwire JV has launched a commercial mobile WiMAX service in Portland, Oregon.

Under the ‘Clear’ brand name, the home internet service costs $30 per month and the mobile internet service is priced at $10 per month. And like the Xohm-branded service launched by Sprint in September 2008 in Baltimore, there is a daily access rate priced at $10.

According to reports, the Clear service can deliver up to 7Mbps on the downlink and 2.5Mbps on the uplink in downtown Portland. Once the network becomes more congested, however, the average downlink speed is more likely to fall between the 2Mbps and 4Mbps range.

Even so, this performance still compares favourably with Clearwire’s mobile data competitors. Verizon Wireless, for example, offers between 600Kbps and 1.4Mbps on the downlink and an average upload speed of between 500Kbps and 800Kbps.

Clearwire’s end-user devices are also aggressively priced with laptops modems retailing at $50 and a leased modem for home use charged at $5 per month.

Portland is where the ‘old’ Clearwire first trialled mobile WiMAX kit from Motorola as early as 1H 2007 before coming part of the new Clearwire last year, whose investors include Sprint, Intel, Google and three major US cable companies.

Clearwire says it is aiming to acquire 25 percent of the 1.7 million users within its WiMAX network coverage area across Portland.

Despite the Portland launch, Clearwire’s investors have still felt the need to write down some the value of their WiMAX investment. This week, Intel announced it would incur a $950m charge in its 4Q 2008 results (published 15 January) to reflect the decline in Clearwire’s value.

Time Warner Cable says it expects to incur a charge of $350m related to its Clearwire investment while Comcast, another cable operator investor in Clearwire, says it is also planning to take an impairment charge. The extent of Comcast’s writedown on Clearwire has yet to be disclosed.

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