Report Excerpt: Why Dearth of Devices Hurts Clearwire

Carl Ford : 4G: For Generations to Come
Carl Ford

Report Excerpt: Why Dearth of Devices Hurts Clearwire

Editor's note: The following is an excerpt from our latest quarterly report on all things Clearwire, the CLEARWIRE NTK OCTOBER 2009 (need to know) report, available now for the low low price of $4.95.

In this excerpt we talk about why we think the lack of interesting WiMAX end-user devices (or the overpriced ones that did launch) have kept users from flocking to Clearwire's 4G wireless broadband offering. For the full report, order online here. Report excerpt follows:

Prices and Devices: Waiting for a reason 'Why' to try WiMAX
Without a doubt, the coolest thing about WiMAX is its ability to provide a true broadband connection with cellular mobility. One of Clearwire's biggest problems, however, is a lack of a compelling reason to take advantage of that mobile connection -- and the dearth of devices that would allow you to even try.

The growing popularity and use of smartphones points to another WiMAX weakness -- the lack of truly portable devices that can take advantage of the technology's superior connectivity. As Clearwire CEO Bill Morrow showed during his 4G World keynote speech in September, in a side-by-side download speed comparison WiMAX leaves 3G in the dust.

But even the (videotaped) demo itself showed a bit of the WiMAX underwear peeking out: To make the tricky demo -- it was a side-by-side screenshot of two iPhones in a car driving down the road -- all the "regular" iPhone had to do was connect via the 3G cellular network; the WiMAX powered iPhone had to connect via Wi-Fi to a Clear Spot router in the car, which was connected to the WiMAX network via a plug-in USB dongle.

So: The WiMAX iPhone was faster, yes, but its kit was also more expensive and in need of a stylish European man-bag to tote all the extra gear around. Though hybrid WiMAX smartphones do reportedly exist -- HTC claims to be selling one for the Yota WiMAX network in Russia -- Clearwire's customer base so far doesn't seem to be big enough to convince device makers that producing such a beast is worth it.

The one vendor that did launch a cool handheld WiMAX device -- Samsung's Mondi, unveiled at the Vegas Clearwire launch -- turned out an overly expensive, somewhat confusing form-factor machine that wasn't big enough to do "real" laptop work. It also doesn't contain an alternate cellular link to make voice calls an easy proposition.

To top it off, Samsung and Clearwire couldn't even get their pricing message straight -- in Las Vegas, a Samsung PR representative told us that the device would sell at $450 unlocked, or $350 with a two-year Clearwire contract. But a few weeks later when Clearwire started offering the Mondi, the subsidy discount was nowhere in sight -- the device would be $450 to all users, contract or no contract. Meanwhile, the iPhone 3GS sells for $199 with a two-year contract. Any questions?

For all the Clearwire knowledge you NEED TO KNOW for the latest quarter, order our CLEARWIRE NTK OCTOBER 2009 report today for just $4.95 -- that's right, less than five bucks for a lengthy take on Clearwire market launches, device plans, business news and more.

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