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Brier Dudley offers a critical look at technology and business issues affecting the Northwest.

March 11, 2009 at 9:00 PM

Note to Clearwire customers: You’ll need an upgrade eventually

Clearwire’s upgrade of its network this year will be a mixed blessing for people using its current wireless broadband service.

The new “Clear” service coming to Seattle in the second half of the year will be faster but it won’t work with the current Clearwire modems, spokeswoman Susan Johnston confirmed.

There’s no word yet on what Clearwire will give customers now using its slower “pre-WiMax” network. Clearwire will continue to operate it simultaneous with the full WiMax network for awhile.

Providing a free hardware upgrade would be a nice gesture. But with the Kirkland company trying to stretch its billions to build out its network, it may only offer discounts.

Johnston said via e-mail that Clearwire “will proactively work with its customers to smoothly transition them to these enhanced mobile WiMax services as they become available. Unfortunately, the current modems aren’t compatible with mobile WiMax, but we will make the new service and devices as attractive as possible for our existing customers.”

Details should come out closer to the Clear service launch.

Also unclear is how long the current service will operate. Johnston wouldn’t say, but noted the company now has enough bandwidth for both. Yet eventually Clear will take the current service’s bandwitch.

The current pre-WiMax network offers downloads up to 2 megabits per second in 46 markets across the U.S. The full WiMax Clear service will provide up to 6 megabits.

“We’ll have a transition period,” Johnston said. “In other words, our existing customer won’t be forced to migrate and upgrade to WiMax.”

Not for a while, at least.

Comments | Topics: Clearwire, Telecom, WiMax

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