A lot of digital ink has been slain in the coverage of Cisco’s ongoing war to kill the WiMax standard in favor of the LTE standard. In the end, the topic is ultimately esoteric in light of the mainstream’s understanding of what the wireless broadband space options actually are: cheap and solid or expensive and unreliable. While we all sat around in Austin this year giving AT&T kudos for finally getting their network to work during a global gathering of geeks at SxSW, a company has been dipping in and out of our collective radars for offering superior speeds and superior pricing: Clear.
Clear, the broadband wireless provider that believes WiMax isn’t dead. They’ve been banking that people would cut the cord with their cable and landline providers to get equivalent speeds wirelessly for $25-$65 a month flat fees, and today they announce that they’ll be going strong in their aggressive expansion strategy on into next year, with the deployment of higher speeds and new coverage in Los Angeles, Miami, St. Louis, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Salt Lake City and increased coverage in New York City, Houston, Boston, Washington, D.C., Kansas City, Denver, Minneapolis and the San Francisco Bay Area.
One of the few criticisms I’ve seen of Clear has been spotty coverage in new deployments as the tower buildout is occasionally uneven – which is addressed in their announcement today as well:
Ongoing enhancements to Clearwire’s cost-efficient microwave backhaul network are expected to increase total backhaul capacity by 250 percent or more, with long-term capability to support gigabit per second speeds in high-density, high-traffic areas. This added capacity will give Clearwire’s robust, cost effective network the ability to leverage its unrivaled spectrum portfolio and support the growth in mobile data traffic, which Cisco projects will double annually across the industry for the next five years.
I’ve made no secret of the fact that I’m a fan of Clear for a long time. They’re disruptive in a number of exciting areas, but most relevant to the mobile space, they have the capability to turn on it’s head the smartphone market as we know it today. All of our mobile equipment is engineered and prepackaged by large companies like Nokia, Apple, Samsung and their ilk, and we’re all locked into long term contracts to get the types of phones that we like (that are all inevitably lacking one or two key features we wish were included before we settled for the phone that’s ‘good enough’).
Clear and affordable, unmetered WiMax solutions of it’s ilk turns the mobile market into less of an Apple-ish landscape and makes it more PC-like. You can pick and choose your equipment. Do you like the handheld mobile experience? Get an iPad touch and a personal WiMax/WiFi hub. Want more power and versatility? Grab a netbook and a USB WiMax appendage. Looking for a home solution? Grab the stationary WiMax router.
These sorts of options aren’t available to the average consumer, most of which aren’t yet using a smartphone in the Android / iPhone class of device yet.
If I were in the mobile industry, I’d pay very close attention to Clear and other providers of similarly priced WiMax services. The combination of economy pricing and wireless broadband is a potentially knock-out punch.