Is Sprint Clearwire a game changer?

If you combine the cost of today's fixed and mobile broadband you pay $130/month, after taxes. If Clearwire can bring that in for half the price, with equal service and a decent TOS, I would switch in a heartbeat.

Sprint Clearwire logo from CNET
The devil is in the details but it could become one.

The launch of Clearwire's WiMax service in Baltimore, under the brand name Xohm, has already drawn protests from consumer advocates complaining that its acceptable use policy allows Sprint to impose bandwidth caps.

WiMax, or 802.16, can use licensed or unlicensed frequencies to deliver speed up to 75 Mbps with cell towers three miles apart. The addition of mobility specs in 2005 made this competitive with cellular as well as fixed broadband, in theory.

Nearly every ISP contract now includes language limiting usage. A single user running BitTorrent non-stop can slow others' traffic on just about any system out there. The problem needs a technical fix and until we get one everyone is applying a legal band-aid.

But as our own John Morris notes, Clearwire's pricing of $25/month for home access and $30/month for mobile, without a contract, is more than competitive.

If the bandwidth cap is competitive with cable, it means you can dump your cable modem and get mobile broadband anywhere free.

That is, if the bandwidth cap is competitive. And as John Karl Bode at DSLReports notes, that's your problem. Contracts are so vague you can't be certain of anything.

When T-Mobile put a 1 GB cap on service with Android, they were hammered for it, so they put in a vague clause in the Terms of Service that might just mean the same thing.

AT&T obviously thinks this could be a game-changer. Otherwise, why are they working so hard to stop it?

They are not protesting Verizon's purchase of AllTel, which will push AT&T's mobile service back to second place in market share. (Oh, right. AT&T tried to do the same deal before Verizon swooped in.)

C|Net's own Marguerite Reardon is skeptical this deal can work, and unless credit markets unfreeze any new build is dicey. Too many partners, she says, and WiMax development may lag as cellular networks move to the competing LTE standard.

Maybe. But if you combine the cost of today's fixed and mobile broadband you pay $130/month, after taxes. If Clearwire can bring that in for half the price, with equal service and a decent TOS, I would switch in a heartbeat.

And so would others.