EarthLink re-enters wireless as a Clearwire MVNO offering WiMAX

EarthLink today said it launched mobile WiMAX services as an MVNO of Clearwire (NASDAQ:CLWR), the result of a wholesale deal the two companies inked in September.

earthlink wimax hotspot

EarthLink is offering a WiMAX hotspot for $39.99.

EarthLink is offering two basic plans: One is $29.95 per month and includes up to 2 GB of data at speeds of up to 3 Mbps, and the other costs $49.95 per month and includes up to 4 GB of data at speeds of up to 6 Mbps. Both plans are being offered on a no-contract basis.

Additionally, EarthLink said customers can buy incremental data packages starting at $4.95 per month that can be added or removed at any time. Those add-ons cost $4.95 for an extra 500 MB of data, $9.95 for an extra 1 GB and $17.95 for an extra 2 GB. EarthLink is offering its service with a mobile hotspot device that can connect up to eight Wi-Fi-enabled gadgets. The device currently costs $39.95 after a rebate.

Clearwire's mobile WiMAX network covers around 135 million POPs in 80 cities, including AtlantaChicago, Dallas, HoustonLos Angeles, Miami, New York, PhiladelphiaSan FranciscoSeattle and Washington, D.C.

This isn't EarthLink's first foray into wireless. The company in the middle of the 2000s agreed to build municipal Wi-Fi networks in locations including Philadelphia, but exited the business in 2007. EarthLink was also an investor in the MVNO Helio, along with SK Telecom, before that MVNO was sold to Virgin Mobile in 2008.

EarthLink's launch of WiMAX service today is noteworthy considering Clearwire is already in the process of moving on to a new network technology, TD-LTE. Clearwire has said it expects to have 2,000 TD-LTE sites completed by the middle of the year and 5,000 by the end of the year in markets including Los Angeles, New York City, Miami and San Francisco. EarthLink has made no mention of launching TD-LTE service.

"Consumers interest in mobile broadband continues to grow, so we are excited to add these 4G wireless data plans to our robust portfolio," Kevin Brand, executive vice president of EarthLink, said in a statement. "Pairing Clearwire's leadership in 4G with our outstanding reputation for customer care provides more opportunity to satisfy customer needs and aligns with our long-term strategy."

Clearwire's fate is in the air right now. Clearwire's board has endorsed Dish Network's (NASDAQ: DISH) $4.40 per share tender offer for at least a 25 percent share in the company over Sprint Nextel's (NYSE:S) $3.40 per share to take control of the rest of Clearwire it does not already own. Clearwire shareholders are set to vote on June 24 on Dish's proposal.

For more:
- see this release
- see this EarthLink site

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