Clearwire launches Rover, youth-oriented prepaid mobile broadband service

Clearwire (NASDAQ:CLWR) is going after the youth market with a new brand and prepaid mobile broadband service targeted to 18-24 year-olds who want unencumbered access to mobile broadband service. The new brand, called Rover, will initially be available in two markets--Houston and St. Louis--through Clear stores, online, Best Buy stores and other independent dealers.

Clearwire’s new Rover Puck.The Rover brand features two devices: The Puck, a portable WiFi hotspot that connects up to eight devices at one time, and the Stick, a personal USB modem that connects to a notebook, laptop or desktop. Both are WiMAX-only, meaning they are not backward compatible to 3G. The Puck costs $149.99 and the Stick costs $99.99. 

Consumers will have a choice of purchasing a monthly plan for $50 per month, a weekly plan at $20 per week or a daily plan for $5 per day. Rover service can be refilled by purchasing a $20 or $50 re-up card or online at Rover does not require a credit card to activate service.  

In a conference call with reporters, Mike Sievert, chief commercial officer at Clearwire, said the company decided to create this brand and target the youth market because executives felt it was underserved. "These are Internet-addicted members of Generation Y. They are city-dwelling youth that live a mobile life and have a desire for fast broadband and iconic devices. They don't want contracts, complexity or hassles."

Sievert added that the Rover devices will be 4G-only, at least initially, because so far single-mode devices represent the vast majority of Clearwire's sales, compared to dual-mode devices that include 3G.

Although Rover may be the first prepaid 4G brand targeted at the Generation Y customer base, it isn't the only prepaid mobile broadband service. Current Analysis reported last week that Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ) is offering 5 GB of prepaid mobile broadband service for $80 per month. The report said the plan is valid up to 30 days from the time of purchase and is compatible with select netbooks as well as data cards. In addition, Virgin Mobile USA, one of Sprint Nextel's (NYSE:S) prepaid brands, launched an unlimited prepaid mobile broadband offering for $40 per month. The new plan is available online and will be pushed out to retail stores in the coming weeks. Other carriers also offer prepaid broadband.

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