Clearwire boots alleged data hogs from network

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Some Clearwire (NASDAQ:CLWR) customers have taken to Twitter and Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) to complain that their wireless broadband service has been terminated for excessive use even though they believed they were paying for unlimited service.

Several users said they received notices from Clearwire last week informing them that their accounts were being canceled due to excessive use of network resources.

Clearwire confirmed to Broadband Reports that it does resort to cutting service if a user's heavy-bandwidth applications might adversely affect the speeds and service quality for their neighbors. "It is rare that we take this step and when we do it affects an extremely small percentage of our total user base. We typically contact users to notify them of this type of situation first in order to provide an opportunity to make necessary changes," said the WiMAX operator.

Clearwire, which tweets as "Clear 4G" @Clear on Twitter, directed customers with questions either to its website, where it has published its acceptable use policy, or to a Facebook page, where the company has a shorter version of the policy.

One of Clearwire's former customers told Broadband Reports that Clearwire informed him that he had breached 5 GB three months in a row, resulting in his service's cancelation. However, Clearwire contends that level of service would not prompt termination. "We have an acceptable use policy concerning network resources, but we would never terminate service for usage at 5GB a month," said a tweet from @Clear in response to a customer question.

People whose Clearwire accounts were terminated also complained that they did not receive any forewarnings about their excessive use prior to their service being cut.

Clearwire has made inexpensive, unlimited data the prime selling point for its WiMAX service. Speaking at an industry conference last month, Clearwire CEO and President Erik Prusch said that 60 percent of the traffic on his company's network is video, and he expects that growing demand for video will create more business for Clearwire because the operator offers less-expensive data plans than many of its competitors. "We offer $45 per month for unlimited data," Prusch said. "No other operator can do that."

Clearwire is trying to maintain its WiMAX network while simultaneously deploying TD-LTE. The financially ailing operator recently slashed its mid-year 2013 TD-LTE deployment target from 5,000 sites to 2,000. The recent cluster of customer account terminations might indicate Clearwire's efforts to focus its capex on building out TD-LTE rather than increasing capacity on its existing WiMAX network.

In addition to the raft of complaints from users who had their Clearwire service terminated, other users last week complained on Twitter that Clearwire is throttling their service. But company reps consistently replied, "We don't throttle," and offered to assist users in discovering why their service appeared to have slowed.

A group of users sued Clearwire in early 2011 after the operator allegedly throttled their unlimited service to 256 kbps in 2010. The company indicated in 2010 that some throttling was conducted in order to manage traffic on individual towers during periods of peak usage.

Clearwire recently ended third quarter 2012 with 10.5 million total subscribers, up 10 percent from the 9.5 million subscribers recorded one year earlier. The subscriber base consists of 1.4 million retail subscribers and 9.1 million wholesale subscribers.

For more:
- see this Broadband Reports article
- see this Clearwire Facebook page and this Clearwire webpage

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