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September 17, 2007

Clearwire Quietly Tests Mobile Gear in Seattle

By Glenn Fleishman

Mobile WiMax isn’t yet on the market as such, but Clearwire has some test products in consumers’ hands in Seattle: Friend and colleague Nancy Gohring reports for IDG News Service that Clearwire is selling PC Cards and a mobile service in the Seattle area. This service requires an $80-post-rebate Motorola card—Motorola having bought Clearwire’s equipment division last year—and a $60 per month service with 1.5 Mbps downstream rates. Clearwire has no downstream usage limits, Gohring reports, as opposed to Verizon and other cell carriers with services that can peak to rates at or above Clearwire’s maximum. Clearwire is trialing the service, and wouldn’t provide many details.

(See comments for Steve Stroh’s take on the underlying equipment—which he expects is nomadic, requiring stationary operation, not mobile.)

Update: It’s pretty clear that this card isn’t anything new, just newly available. It’s definitely using the existing Clearwire technology, but in a portable form factor that doesn’t require a separate power source. There’s no new technology behind serving a signal to the card. Still, a harbinger of what’s to come.

Posted by Glennf at September 17, 2007 4:36 PM

Categories: Mobile WiMax, Trials, future technologies

Comments

Glenn and Steve,

I encourage you guys to talk with someone who has actually tested the Expedience service or try it yourselves. You will find that even with the fixed modem you can use it with a 12 V inverter in your car and get a great mobile experience. I would assume that this will be the case with the PC card though the range will be more limited.

The mobile subscriber is a hardened, shock resistant device similar to what Alvarion and Tropos sell that mounts in the roof of the trunk of the car. It is designed for municipal/public safety employees

[Editor's note: The Clearwire service has long been nomadic, but it's inconvenient. With a PC Card, you're running on laptop battery. That's a big difference for most people, along with the reduction in equipment.-gf]

Posted by: Karl Edwards at September 21, 2007 4:30 PM

I'm skeptical that this is a new service for Clearwire; rather it seems to be just a different wireless modem option.

Clearwire's current networks are based on a proprietary Broadband Wireless Internet Access called Expedience, originally developed by NextNet Wireless, now owned by Motorola. While that network is capable of full mobility (full connectivity while in motion up to highway speeds), I believe that full mobility on an Expedience system requires a large, bulky radio unit and a vehicular-mounted antenna similar to the first mobile (pre-cellular) telephones.

The Expedience PC Card (see www.nextnetwireless.com) merely takes advantage of higher levels of integration of Radio Frequency (RF) technology to package the equivalent functionality of the Expedience "hardback book" modem into a PC Card. From discussions I had several years ago seeing a prototype of the Expedience PC Card, a user of the Expedience PC Card, like the "hardback book" modem, can only connect when stationary.

[Editor's note: To be clear, I meant "service" as in "service offering," not a technology change. There's no suspicion that mobile WiMax in PC Card form will be available for some months. Fascinating about the stationary issue -- that's usually called nomadic versus mobile. -gf]

Posted by: Steve Stroh at September 17, 2007 8:41 PM

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