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
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.
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
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.
Only registered users can write comments.
Please login or register.