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By Rob Garretson

 

Sprint affiliate Clearwire on Monday launched a new prepaid WiMax service aimed at “Internet-addicted” youth, but which could also allow enterprises to more easily test mobile applications at 4G speeds without committing to a two-year service contract.

The new service, called Rover and touted as the nation's first pay-as-you-go 4G mobile broadband service, offers one month of unlimited 4G data transmission for $50, or $20 for a week of service or $5 a day. The new pricing model could put competitive pressure on other wireless service providers, some of which are mulling changes to their data-plan pricing in anticipation of widespread 4G deployment later this year and into 2011, as well as the proliferation of more powerful mobile devices designed for high-bandwidth applications.

 

AT&T recently phased out its unlimited smartphone data plans with the introduction of the iPad and iPhone 4, and Verizon’s prepaid mobile broadband service is capped at 5GB of data transmission and costs $80 per month.

But Clearwire officials touted the high bandwidth demands of its customers and the unlimited nature of its new Rover service. Clearwire’s existing customer base of 2 million users average 7GB of data transmission per month, said chief commercial officer Mike Sievert in a conference call with reporters and analysts.

 

“At Rover, unlimited means unlimited,” added Seth Cummings, Clearwire’s general manager for Rover, noting that some carriers are marketing their service as unlimited, but implement a 5GB monthly cap in the fine print. “One thing we don’t like at Rover is asterisks.”

 

The company is offering two hardware devices that implement the service: the Rover Stick, a 4G USB modem that connects any notebook, laptop or desktop to the 4G network, priced at $99.99, and a $portable Wi-Fi hotspot called the Rover Puck that can connect up to eight devices. The Stick is compatible with MacBook laptops running Mac OS X, as well as Windows-based netbooks and notebooks running XP or above. The 149.99 Puck fits into a purse or backpack and can provide broadband access to devices such as laptops, netbooks, Apple’s iPad, iPod Touch, and a variety of smartphones, as well as game systems and Wi-Fi enabled digital cameras, according to Clearwire.

 

Though the Rover service is squarely aimed at 18 to 34 year old “Internet-addicted members of Generation Y,” Sievert said, he acknowledged that the service could be attractive to businesses. “The thing about having a target market is that it’s just that – a target,” he said in response to a question about potential business customers. “I think people from all walks of life are going to be attracted to it.” The service is intended to solve a problem for young urbanites, the growing base of prepaid wireless phone users who have few mobile broadband options and don’t want the commitment of a two-year contract.  Yet the pay-as-you-go pricing is the preference for a wide range of users, Sievert added.

 

The Rover devices will be 4G-only initially, officials said, because to date the majority of Clearwire’s customers opt for single-mode 4G devices rather than the dual-mode devices that can also roam on 3G networks. Clearwire’s WiMAX network, which Sprint resells for its 4G service, is available in 49 markets that include a population of 56 million people. The Rover service [www.rover.com] is available across the entire Clearwire footprint, but the devices will be sold at retail initially only in Houston and St. Louis at CLEAR stores, Best Buy stores and select independent wireless dealers, the company said.

 




Comments (2)
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1. 09-03-2010 10:28
 
While it's refreshing to see a provider still advancing the notion of truly unlimited data plans, this service has some limitations in that it does not seem to be extended to smartphones and it is only 4G. I believe there's been some press of late with Sprint's dissatisfaction with the rate at which the Clearwire 4G network is being deployed, so this may not be that great of a deal.
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2. 09-19-2010 20:04
 
Well with a contract Clear already offers these types of products so it is nice to see an alternative to getting stuck with a contract. It also shows the same attitude that I have on unlimited data. I do wish that they would include an option to roam both the 4G and 3G networks as they already have with contract users. This would allow the device to be much more portable should you travel often and like the ability to connect up almost everywhere you go. 
 
-sean
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