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Saturday, March 08, 2008

Uncrossing the Wires - Can Clearwire be Fixed?

Clearwire is the first major WiMax broadband service offering. The company initially launched with fixed-line replacement broadband for people's homes or offices. This puts them into direct competition with cable and DSL providers. Let's look at the landscape to see how Clearwire stacks up:

ProviderPlan NamePriceSpeedTerm
ClearwireClearPremium Choice$26.991.5 Mbps2 yrs
ClearwireClearPremium Plus$44.992.0 Mbps2 yrs (3 mos. at $19.99)
QwestFaster$44.991.5Mbps2 yrs ($26.99 with home phone)
QwestFastest$54.997.0 Mbps2 yrs ($36.99 with home phone)
ComcastHigh Speed Internet$52.956.0 Mbps0 yrs ($42.95 with cable TV)

As you can see, Clearwire's service offerings are not necessarily any cheaper or faster. In fact, existing Qwest Local Phone and Comcast Cable TV subscribers can get 4x faster access for less money. So why would anyone go with Clearwire?

They are priced at parity with Qwest on their voice bundle:

ProviderPlan NamePriceSpeedTerm
ClearwireClearwire Voice Bundle$71.981.5 Mbps2 yrs (3 mos. at $24.98)
QwestUnlim LongDist Bundle$71.981.5 Mbps2 yrs

But what about mobility? Clearwire announced a PC card service recently that is $10 a month cheaper and slightly faster, but their coverage area is terrible in comparison to Sprint and soon to AT&T as well. Here is how the mobile plans compare:

ProviderPlan NamePriceSpeedTerm
ClearwirePC Card Premium$49.991.5 Mbps2 yrs
AT&TDataConnect$59.991.4 Mbps2 yrs (5 GB limit)
SprintMobile Broadband$59.991.4 Mbps2 yrs

Clearwire also has a home/mobile bundle, but if you've got a mobile broadband PC card, what do you need home broadband for unless it is significantly faster (which Clearwire's isn't):

ProviderPlan NamePriceSpeedTerm
ClearwireClearPremium Plus w/ PC $79.992.0 Mbps2 yrs (1.5 Mbps mobile)

So why would anyone signup with Clearwire?

Frankly I'm not sure why someone would unless they have no other option. Clearwire has no clear advantage.

As an outsider looking in, if I were advising Clearwire, here is what I would do:
  1. Abandon the home broadband market in metropolitan areas with good cable and DSL coverage
  2. Focus on rural areas and smaller metropolitan areas with poor coverage where they may have a unique offer
  3. In metropolitan areas, focus on the mobile broadband market and pushing the speed/pricing envelope
  4. Focus on developing a WiMax signal booster that can be plugged into any AC or DC power source
  5. Explore alternative pricing models, possibly including advertising-supported service (as an option)
  6. Push the Sprint partnership through to expand the value of the combined Sprint/Clearwire WiMax offering
  7. Could PC cards be used to somehow improve WiFi reception?
  8. Support automatic switching to faster user-approved WiFi connection points when in range
  9. Partner with local phone or cable companies to be their mobile broadband providers
  10. Get Clearwire technology embedded in new laptops along with antennas that boost both WiMax and WiFi reception


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