Clearwire starts testing usage-based pricing in 10 markets

Clearwire (NASDAQ:CLWR) has started testing usage-based prepaid mobile data plans in 10 of its mobile WiMAX markets, a break from its previous offering of $35 per month for unlimited home Internet and $50 per month for unlimited mobile Internet access.

Clearwire confirmed to Broadband Reports that it is testing the new plans, which include 2 GB of data for $20 per month, 40 GB of data for $40 or an unlimited offering for $60. All of the plans are prepaid since Clearwire ditched postpaid contract service in 2011. 

"What you're seeing there is a trial we have underway in some markets to offer new tiered pricing plans in addition to our unlimited plan," Clearwire spokesman Mike DiGioia told Broadband Reports. The trials are taking place in Boise, Idaho; Boston; Charlotte, N.C; Cleveland; Miami; Minneapolis; Philadelphia; Trenton, N.J.; Salt Lake City; and Wilmington, Del.

"We believe that these plans will give customers greater control of their broadband options by allowing them to select the plan that best fits their budget," DiGioia said. "It's important to note that we plan to continue offering unlimited usage plans and this is intended to expand the range of options and reach a broader base of potential customers with a wider variety of needs."

Clearwire is by no means the first carrier to introduce tiered data. AT&T Mobility kicked off the trend in 2010 and Verizon Wireless joined the trend after that. However, Sprint Nextel and T-Mobile USA currently offer unlimited smartphone data. 

Clearwire confirmed to Broadband Reports last month 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. Clearwire also has indicated in the past that it sometimes throttles users' speeds as part of its network management.

Earlier this week Sprint Nextel (NYSE:S) and Clearwire agreed to a transaction where Sprint will acquire the rest of Clearwire for $2.97 per share, or $2.2 billion. If approved, the deal will give Sprint access to Clearwire's spectrum: around 160 MHz of spectrum in the top 100 markets. Sprint said its Network Vision network architecture would allow it to efficiently deploy TD-LTE, which Clearwire had planned to deploy by the middle of next year.

For more:
- see this Broadband Reports article

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Correction, Dec. 19, 2012: This article misstated the nature of Clearwire's usage-based plans. The company is offering a plan that includes 40 GB for $40 per month, not 4 GB for $40 per month.