Clearwire launches in Las Vegas as WiMAX chases stimulus funds
Published: 8 July, 2009
The recent announcement of the rules for US broadband stimulus fund allocation has put WiMAX in the spotlight again, with several players seeing this money - and the tight timescales in which it must be spent - as a key opportunity for a technology that is ready to roll now. While US rural providers like ERF Wireless and DigitalBridge chase the funding to accelerate their roll-outs, however, the biggest US WiMAX venture, Clearwire, is uncertain whether it will need such support.
Going after stimulus awards could distract Clearwire from its current roadmap, which has become significantly more focused on large cities than it was when the firm was building out its former proprietary systems, pre-Sprint JV. As though to confirm that focus, and its confidence in going head-on against large carriers, Clearwire has officially launched in its fourth Mobile WiMAX market, Las Vegas, and will start offering services on July 21.
Clearwire recently activated services in Atlanta, and is already live in Portland, Oregon and the former Sprint Xohm launch territory, Baltimore. The aim is to cover 10 metro markets by year end, with much of the activity taking place over the summer.
Many of the early commercial networks have been built by Samsung, but Las Vegas uses Motorola gear, as will the imminent roll-out in Chicago. Clearwire is also expected to add Huawei to its supplier roster - in Sprint Xohm days, Nokia Siemens was also selected, but seems to have faded in the WiMAX market. Motorola was showing a trial network in the Las Vegas strip a full two years ago, and the system has now been extended to cover the whole city plus surrounding communities such as Henderson, according to the firm.
Clearwire tends to soft launch its services a few months before the full switch-on, as it did in Las Vegas, and this could be expected in the next markets, Chicago and Dallas/Fort Worth soon. Adverts for salespeople in these cities have already been spotted by the blogs. Another challenge that faces Clearwire is full integration/roaming with networks that were initiated by Xohm - Baltimore plus Chicago and Dallas. This will be achieved by year end, says the operator, including reconciliation of the back office systems - as will the launch of a new device, the Samsung Mondi MID, according to Telephony Online.
Another flagship WiMAX operator in a developed country, Japan's UQ Communications, may also step up its activities, driven by its largest investor, cellco KDDI. Faced with a slowdown in traditional revenues, increased competition from rivals like eMobile, and a wait for its planned LTE roll-out, KDDI could invest more money in its venture with Intel, Kyocera and others. President Tadashi Onodera told news agency Reuters: "We think of UQ as part of KDDI. We will of course invest more money if necessary." In May, KDDI invested ¥30bn ($312.5m) in the venture, in which it holds a 35% stake. It will start LTE build-out in 2012.
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