Clearwire's WiMax service, known as Clear, is available in four large U.S. cities today -- Baltimore, Atlanta, Las Vegas and Portland, Ore. -- and in 10 smaller cities in Texas, Idaho and Washington. Rollouts in Chicago, Philadelphia, Dallas/Fort Worth, Seattle, Honolulu and Charlotte are also scheduled for this year. The company plans to offer service to as many as 120 million customers in 80 U.S. markets, including New York, Boston, Washington, D.C., Houston and San Francisco, by the end of 2010.
While Clearwire gets the lion's share of WiMax publicity, it's far from the only company in the WiMax broadcasting business. AT&T Inc., for example, has rolled out WiMax service in Alaska for residents of Anchorage and Juneau. And Intel is working with Clearwire to launch the "WiMax Innovation Network" in California's Silicon Valley to serve as a test environment for mobile application developers at companies like Google Inc.
Although most of today's WiMax rollouts are aimed at urban areas, smaller wireless ISPs are bringing WiMax to areas where there is demand for broadband but not much in the way of a wired infrastructure to deliver the high-speed Internet goods. For example, DigitalBridge Communications Corp., a rural WiMax operator based in Ashburn, Va., and Open Range Communications Inc. in Greenwood Village, Colo., are using funds from the $7.2 billion rural broadband stimulus program to build rural WiMax infrastructures in their service areas.
But mass WiMax deployments are still not moving quickly. "AT&T has had some difficulty with deployments in Anchorage and Juneau, and we all have heard about Clearwire's Portland, Oregon, deployment," which took almost a year longer than the company had first predicted, observed Matanuska Wireless owner Jones.
"I think the learning curve is what has been slowing down the growth nationwide," Jones said. "As more and more networks are being deployed, the manufacturers are listening to feedback coming in from the field, making the necessary adjustments and releasing new products." Jones said he expects to see more visible progress next year. "As standards are locked in and equipment is fine-tuned, look for deployments to grow both in size and location."