September 17, 2009, 5:28 PM — Clearwire, the foremost flag-bearer for the WiMax flavor of 4G wireless service worldwide, has launched a free WiMax network for the developer community in Silicon Valley. The "Innovation Network," as Clearwire has dubbed it, covers 20 square miles of the valley, and is intended to hit the developer community where it lives.
The network covers Santa Clara, Mountain View and parts of downtown Palo Alto, California. That means it can service the campuses of Google, Intel and Cisco, and perhaps the apartments and garages of many other independent developers. Clearwire originally announced plans for the network in April.
In order to get unlimited access to the network developers must prove that they are working on a legitimate project, and they must purchase one of Clearwire's WiMax modems, which start at $50. And the free service offer lasts only one year.
What's In It for Clearwire?
Clearwire hopes that by being the first in the area to offer a fast 4G network in the neighborhood, it will spur developers to create new apps that depend on and leverage 4G speed. (WiMax can deliver average download speeds of 3 to 6 Mbps, while most 3G networks average download speeds of between 600 kbps - 1.4 Mbps.) For instance, a Clearwire rep told me, possible apps might use multiple high-bandwidth services like video and large file sharing.
The move by Clearwire is an interesting one, but certainly won't be enough to turn the tide for the WiMax wireless standard in the long term. And Clearwire knows it. The best thing about WiMax is that it is rolling out today--Clearwire says it's "Clear" WiMax service will be available to 120 million people by the end of next year. Even if they reach that goal, it doesn't mean WiMax will become the dominant wireless technology of the future. Not by a long shot.
Long Term Evolution (LTE)
In fact, one of the biggest pieces of news to come out of the 4G World conference here in Chicago came yesterday morning when Clearwire CEO Bill Morrow said his company is prepared to switch to the competing LTE (Long Term Evolution) standard if necessary. So the "Innovation Network" may end up being a good developer relations move for Clearwire, but not necessarily for WiMax.