Clearwire Announces Expansion Plans

Clearwire will roll out WiMax service in Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas/Ft. Worth, Honolulu, Las Vegas, Philadelphia, Seattle, and elsewhere in 2009: Then Boston, Houston, New York, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C. are slated for 2010, along with other cities not yet announced. The planned footprint passes 120 million people in 80 markets by 2010, the company said.

Clearwire released these details in an earnings announcement today. The company had a net loss of $432m in 2008 and just 475,000 customers, although the firm raised $3.2b in financing for its massive expansion. Clearwire also announced two products designed to integrate WiMax with existing gear. One is what it calls a "personal hot spot," a device that has both a WiMax gateway and a Wi-Fi router built in. Pricing wasn't mentioned; it will be available in March.

The second is an expected 3G/4G cellular modem due mid-year that will roam between Sprint's 3G network footprint and Clearwire's 4G WiMax network. This device is absolutely critical for business travelers. Still to come are Intel Centrino-2 based laptops with an integrated WiMax/Wi-Fi chipset, which Clearwire says 26 models of which have already been certified by the WiMax Forum. That's the other component for business use:

When these ship, and businesses in cities with near-term deployment decide that it's worth the price or not, we'll see how WiMax fares against existing 3G networks. As a Seattle resident, I expected to see Seattle's unwiring in 2009. It would have to be embarrassing for an operator like Clearwire to have executives and others visit its Kirkland, Wash., headquarters--and not be able to use the company's service.