Comcast will partner with Clearwire to offer a new Internet package that will bundle Clearwire's WiMAX mobile broadband with Comcast's cable Internet, according to a report from CNET's Maggie Reardon.
This isn't a surprise. Last year, Comcast was part of the consortium of companies that invested in the big Sprint-Clearwire WiMAX deal, so lots of commentators (including this one) have assumed that part of Comcast's deal would be to help bring WiMAX to market in bundled Internet deals.
Clearwire has launched WiMAX in four markets: Portland (OR), Las Vegas, Atlanta, and Baltimore (which originally launched under the Sprint Xohm brand). Comcast will launch its WiMAX bundle in Portland first and then in the other three cities by the end of the year.
Reardon explains how Comcast will be selling the bundles:
Comcast will be selling 4G [WiMAX] wireless access as part of an Internet bundle to Comcast subscribers. To entice new subscribers, Comcast is offering the new 4G wireless with its 12 Mbps download cable modem service, plus a free 802.11g router for $50 a month for the first 12 months. The data card used for the 4G wireless, which fits into a laptop, costs $99. But subscribers who sign up for the package with a two-year commitment get the data card for free. After the first 12 months, subscribers will then pay $43 per month for the 12 Mbps broadband service and $30 extra per month for 4G wireless service. The 4G wireless service is only available in Comcast's cable territory, but subscribers who travel to other cities where Clearwire's network is operational will be able to access the network at no additional cost.
New customers signing up for Comcast's triple play bundle of TV, phone, and Internet can add the 4G wireless component for $30 extra a month. So with the introductory price of $99 a month for the first year, the total would be $130 a month. After the first year, that bundle increases to $130 per month, so it would cost subscribers with the 4G wireless service $160 a month.
For subscribers who want more ubiquitous coverage, Comcast is offering a 3G/4G service that provides wireless connectivity on the Clearwire 4G network when it is available and on Sprint Nextel's 3G wireless service in other areas where 4G is not available. The cost of this service is an additional $20 per month. Existing Comcast customers can add the new service for $30 more a month to their existing packages. And they can add the nationwide access with 3G access for $20 more per month.
The 3G/WiMAX bundle is a nice deal since it costs $50/month and the standard 3G mobile broadband plans from AT&T, Verizon, and Sprint typically cost $60/month. The WiMAX 4G service is advertised at speeds of 4 Mbps upload and 500 Kpbs downloads -- which is about double the usual 3G speeds. When I tested the WiMAX network in Baltimore at its launch last fall, I got speeds of about 5 Mbps down and 2 Mbps up, but that was before lots users were on the network.
For now, the WiMAX bundle will be most useful to those who do a lot of traveling around their local area, such as real estate agents and local sales people. Next year, it will become a lot more interesting to nationwide travelers.
Clearwire's WiMAX build-out will include six more cities in 2009: Chicago, Charlotte, Dallas/Ft. Worth, Honolulu, Philadelphia, and Seattle. But, 2010 will be the year that mobile WiMAX truly spreads across the U.S. with Clearwire promising to light up WiMAX in more than 50 additional cities, including New York, Boston, Washington, D.C., Houston and the San Francisco Bay Area. In fact, the Clearwire WiMAX deployments are already underway in most of those big metros.