Atlanta WiMax launch keeps Clearwire on track for nationwide rollout

Clearwire plans to be in 80 cities by end of 2010

Clearwire Corp. officially launched WiMax services in Atlanta today, noting that the launch in its largest city so far keeps it on track to provide service in 80 U.S. markets by the end of 2010.

The high-speed wireless Internet service is available in Atlanta to nearly 3 million people covering 1,200 square miles, Clearwire said in a statement. Download speeds are from 4Mbit/sec. to 6 Mbit/sec., with bursts exceeding 15Mbit/sec., the company said.

Independent analyst Jeff Kagan, who lives in Atlanta, said he has been using the Clear branded service over a laptop card for two weeks with speeds of 9Mbit/sec. But he also noted that service ends outside the city and that Clearwire's success will depend on marketing and rolling out service nationwide.

Pricing ranges from $10 for a day pass to $20 per month for home Internet service, or $40 or more per month for mobile Internet plans.

Before Atlanta, Clearwire launched service in Portland, Ore., and Baltimore, and said in March that it would launch in eight cities, including Atlanta, this year, with four others in 2010. A spokeswoman said those launches are only the cities that Clearwire has named, and they are part of an ambitious plan to launch in 80 markets by the end of 2010.

The WiMax system in Atlanta comes from Motorola Inc., which is also provisioning Chicago. At the launch event, Clearwire and Intel Corp., a Clearwire investor, will announce plans for including WiMax embedded in dozens of laptops that run Intel Centrino 2 processors, as well as netbooks based on Intel Atom processors that will be used in Atlanta public schools.

Clearwire also said it would officially launch service in Las Vegas this summer. Some of the additional markets planned for launch this year include Chicago, Charlotte, N.C., Dallas-Fort Worth, Honolulu, Philadelphia and Seattle, Clearwire said. New York, Boston, Washington, Houston and San Francisco are expected to launch in 2010.

Clearwire said Panasonic will deliver a Toughbook computer with embedded WiMax, but gave no other details. A dual-mode modem for WiMax and Sprint's 3G networks is also coming this summer. Cleawire also said the Samsung Mondi handheld device will be available for orders soon. The Mondi is the first handheld device working over WiMax for the Clear network, the company said.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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