Today, I started an experiment at my house that will likely mean an end to my cable broadband service. I went to the Little Shop of Hardware, my friendly neighborhood computer store, and signed up for Clear.
Clear is the name of a wireless broadband service from Clearwire Communications. It uses a technology called WiMAX (also known as "4G" in the mobile telephone world) to provide Internet download speeds of up to 6 megabits per second. Because it's wireless, you can pick it up at the store and have broadband service in about a half hour that rivals (or is better in some cases) than cable modems and costs less.
You can also get several flavors of service from Clear. In addition to home broadband, you can also get mobile service. You can even switch your home phone service over to Clear, plugging a voice adapter into your home network to patch your phones into.
I signed up for the home and mobile combination, a service plan that costs $60 a month if you sign on for it this month. The service normally starts at $55 for just home Internet service, and $74 for a combination plan.
I opted to buy the hardware— a home modem that connects to my WiFi router, and a USB modem that I can plug into my netbook on the road—but you can opt to lease the equipment (though buying it makes much more financial sense over the length of a 2-year service contract). You can also purchase a mobile WiFI hotspot based on the MiFi for the mobile plan, which will allow you to connect multiple WiFi devices to the broadband service—just the thing if you have an iPad , or your family rolls on trips with multiple netbooks like mine does.
Clear will allow you to cancel a contract within 14 days if it turns out to not work for you. And there's certainly the chance that it might not work for you. The main issues with Clear's service right now is that its coverage is patchy outside some major metropolitan areas. Fortunately, Baltimore was one of the first markets where WiMAX service was rolled out.
It took me about 20 minutes once I got home to get my home network switched over from the cable modem to Clear. The networking part was simple:
- Unplug the WiFi router's "WAN" network cable from the cable modem.
- Plug the network cable into the Clear modem.
It may take a bit more time to set up depending on where your WiFi router is, however. Since Clear is wireless, you may want to try a few locations with the home modem to see where the best network signal is before settling on where to make its permanent home. The G-series modem I purchased has four LED lights that serve the same purpose as the bars on a cell phone, indicating the signal strength. Just to be sure, I located mine near my office window, with a good line of sight to nearby antenna towers.
So far, the service has met or exceeded my expectations. I've placed Skype calls and streamed video and have gotten results as good as or better than my current Comcast cable modem service. It's no surprise that Comcast is an investor in Clear, as are several other cable companies and Sprint, some of whom are reselling Clear's service as their own.