Clearwire, Sprint accelerate WiMAX launch pace as Verizon's LTE looms

Clearwire (NASDAQ:CLWR) and Sprint Nextel (NYSE:S) launched mobile WiMAX service in five new markets as the companies continue to push their 4G-branded service ahead of Verizon Wireless' (NYSE:VZ) expected LTE launch in December. 

Clearwire and Sprint launched service in Cincinnati, Cleveland and Columbus, Ohio; Los Angeles and Miami. Sprint also launched WiMAX--which it resells from Clearwire under the Sprint 4G brand--in Washington, D.C., where Clearwire had previously launched. The two companies now cover 103 million POPs in 68 markets. Both companies launched service in Los Angeles two days ahead of schedule and also expect to launch service in San Francisco Dec. 28. The WiMAX service provides average downlink speeds of 3-6 Mbps, with bursts of faster speeds. 

The launches come as Clearwire searches for more funding to continue its network buildout next year. Sprint, which owns a 54 percent stake in Clearwire, has said it is holding discussions with Clearwire about possibly funding the operator, but has noted that the negotiations might not result in a transaction. In the meantime, Clearwire has cut 15 percent of its workforce and delayed smartphone launches, though it has said it is still on track to cover 120 million POPs by year-end.

Verizon, meanwhile, has indicated it will launch its LTE service in December in 38 markets markets and at more than 60 airports, covering 110 million POPs. The carrier has said its network will deliver real-world downlink speeds of 5-12 Mbps and uplink speeds of 2-5 Mbps. The operator's first LTE devices will be USB dongles, followed by other devices next year. Verizon Communications CEO Ivan Seidenberg said earlier this month that Verizon's first LTE smartphone will be available in February, months earlier than the company had previously indicated.

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