Clearwire launches Rover prepaid brand

Clearwire branched out in its WiMax mobile data service on Monday, launching a prepaid brand called Rover.

Rover uses the same network as Clearwire's existing Clear service but offers simpler pricing plans and client devices. Consumers can pay $50 for a month of data service, $20 for a week or $5 for a day, with no contracts or data caps. Rover starts out by offering two devices: the Rover Puck portable Wi-Fi router, priced at $149.99, and the Rover Stick USB modem, for $99.99.

Subscribers can buy Clear service without a long-term contract already, but about 80% of Clear users are on contracts, Clearwire Chief Commercial Officer Michael Sievert said on a webcast Monday morning to announce Rover. With the new brand, Clearwire is taking aim at consumers who want simpler pricing, especially young adults aged 18-24 who are buying their own Internet access for the first time, he said.

Rover will work only on Clearwire's WiMax 4G network and not on Sprint's 3G network, as some other Clearwire plans do. That means coverage is limited to the 49 markets where the 4G network is already built out. In addition, users can't sign up for Rover plans using Clear-branded client devices, Sievert said.

The new service is available now online and through Best Buy, Clear stores and independent wireless dealers in Houston and St. Louis. Retail availability will expand to other markets later. After buying a device and service, customers will be able to pay for more service online, with gift cards, in cash at a retail store or automatically through a credit or debit card. Though young adults are the target market for Rover, the service is available to all classes of customers, including businesses, Clearwire executives said. Rover is not available through Clearwire's wholesale partners, such as Sprint Nextel and Comcast.

As with Clear, there is no cap on the amount of data users can download on Rover. The service and client devices can be used with popular VoIP (voice over Internet Protocol) services, Clearwire said.

Clearwire is offering a 14-day "no-hassle" return policy for Rover devices, and new customers will receive two free days of service.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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