Clearwire expands markets, boosts network

LAS VEGAS--Clearwire announced new market launches for its mobile WIMAX service as well as a new WiMAX-enabled netbook at the start of this week's CTIA Wireless 2010 trade show here. Additionally, the company unveiled a series of network enhancements in an effort to bolster its coverage as it speeds ahead with its market deployments.

Clearwire said it plans to launch mobile WIMAX service in Cincinnati, Cleveland, Los Angeles, Miami, Pittsburgh, Salt Lake City and St. Louis this year, in addition to New York City, San Francisco, Boston, Washington, D.C., Denver, Minneapolis and Kansas City, which it had previously announced. Clearwire restated its goal of covering 120 million POPs by the end of the year.

Clearwire, along with majority owner Sprint Nextel, has made network expansion and devices key aspects of its strategy this year. To that end, the company said it will add the WiMAX-capable Dell Inspiron Mini 10 netbook to its lineup April 1, which will retail for $249.99. Clearwire said it will offer the Clear Spot, which will be able to create a WiFi hotspot for up to eight users with WiMAX as backhaul.

In addition to the new devices, Clearwire detailed network enhancements it said will boost speeds and microwave backhaul capacity. The company will expand its cell site capacity by doubling the number of transmitters and receivers per site, which it said will boost user speeds by around 20-30 percent. Backhaul upgrades are expected to increase total backhaul capacity by 250 percent or more, the company said. Clearwire's mobile WiMAX users eat through around 7 GB of data per month, according to Mike Sievert, Clearwire's chief commercial officer.

Clearwire had 688,000 total subscribers at the end of the fourth quarter, which included 642,000 retail customers and 46,000 wholesale subscribers from Comcast, Sprint and Time Warner Cable. The total number of customers on Clearwire's mobile WiMAX service were 438,000. The company's network is expected to get a jolt of publicity today; Sprint is expected to launch its first WiMAX phone, the HTC Supersonic.

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