With one WiMax outpost established in Baltimore, the newly combined Clearwire and Sprint Nextel Xohm WiMax division have put a west coast footprint in Portland, Ore., as the next step in their plans to build a nationwide 4G wireless network. The Jan. 6 debut will be first citywide effort marketed under the merger’s new Clear identity.
WiMax made its initial U.S. appearance in Baltimore in October and is still operating under the Xohm brand.
The new Clearwire plans to provide WiMax service in most of the top 100 markets by no later than 2010. Clearwire estimates it will take up to $7 billion to complete the network. When Sprint and Clearwire formally closed their $14.5 billion merger deal Dec. 1 to combine the two carriers’ 4G wireless Internet businesses, the deal also included a combined $3.2 billion investment by Comcast, Intel, Time Warner Cable, Google and Bright House Networks.
WiMax’s 4G technology allows for the delivery of last-mile wireless broadband access. WiMax promises faster download speeds than current cellular networks and has the potential to be a competitor to fixed-line broadband such as DSL. Verizon Wireless, AT&T and other mobile carriers have committed to a 3G technology known as LTE.
Clearwire’s open all-IP network provides customers with average download speeds initially of 2-4 megabits per second and peak rates that are considerably faster. In the Portland rollout, Clearwire is charging $30 a month for a 200 Mb usage cap and $50 per month for unlimited data. Clearwire is also charging customers a $35 activation fee.
Sprint and Clearwire hope their combined wireless spectrum will allow the new Clearwire to achieve greater coverage, cost and operational efficiencies, and bandwidth-utilization than either company could by operating alone.
Intel, a longtime proponent of WiMax, will invest about $1 billion into the new Clearwire while Comcast plans to contribute a little more than $1 billion. Time Warner is putting up $550 million and Google $500 million. Sprint, the nation’s No. 3 wireless carrier, will own the largest stake in the new company, with about 51 percent equity ownership. Existing Clearwire shareholders will own about 27 percent of the venture. The new strategic investors, as a group, will be acquiring about 22 percent of the new Clearwire.
Google will become Sprint’s preferred mobile search provider and Sprint users will have easier access to Google Maps for mobile, YouTube and other Google services. Clearwire CEO Benjamin Wolff said the new WiMax network would be open to all legal devices and services, including Google’s Android platform. Intel will supply networking gear and software for the new network.