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Sprint Will Shut Down Clear/4G WiMAX Network by 2015; TD-LTE Upgrade for Most Cell Sites

wimaxSprint has begun decommissioning its increasingly obsolete 4G WiMAX network with definitive plans to shut off the service completely by the end of 2015.

While most Sprint customers with smartphones have long since moved away from WiMAX, Sprint has resold access to the 2.5GHz network for some prepaid Boost, Sprint, and Virgin Mobile customers as well as third parties including FreedomPop and Earthlink.

WiMAX was the first 4G network in the United States, launching first in Baltimore in the fall of 2008. Sprint customers were offered the HTC Evo 4G smartphone to access WiMAX’s faster speeds. Separately, Clearwire marketed access to WiMAX as a wireless home and business broadband solution. WiMAX was often promoted as a longer distance alternative to Wi-Fi, and was initially capable of 30-40Mbps speeds.

clear-logoIn practice, WiMAX in the United States never achieved great success. Sprint and Clearwire’s network was never built out sufficiently to provide nationwide coverage, and because it relied on very high frequencies, even customers inside claimed service areas often dealt with reception problems, especially indoors. Clearwire’s home broadband replacement often required reception equipment be placed near a window, preferably one without a thermal coating that could block or degrade the signal.

As soon as Sprint and Clearwire added a significant number of customers to the network, speeds deteriorated. Neither company invested enough in upgrades to keep up with demand. Instead, Clearwire’s home broadband customers, originally promised unlimited service, were routinely speed throttled for “excessive use.”

The same year WiMAX was introduced in Baltimore, Network World was already warning the technology was in trouble. By 2011, the magazine had officially declared WiMAX dead.

“There was way too much hype surrounding WiMAX (like the White Spaces today, it was marketed as ‘Wi-Fi on steroids’ and a replacement for Wi-Fi; such was, of course, complete nonsense)”, the magazine wrote.

Other American wireless carriers showed little interest in WiMAX, particularly as competing 4G technologies including HSPA+ and LTE were nearing deployment.

SprintDespite the promise of greatly enhanced data speeds with the next generation of WiMAX, dubbed WiMAX 2, many of the world’s largest wireless carriers were already preparing to move on. In particular, China Mobile (and its 600 million customers) became the decisive factor that turned WiMAX 2 into a bad bet. China Mobile decided the better choice was TD-LTE, a variant of LTE technology. With China Mobile providing service to 10 percent of the world’s mobile users all by itself, support for TD-LTE grew and attracted equipment manufacturers that saw the earnings potential from selling tens of millions of base stations.

TD-LTE is an excellent upgrade choice for WiMAX operators because it was designed to work best at high frequencies ranging from 1850-3800MHz — the same frequency bands that WiMAX already uses.

Sprint expects to decommission at least 6,000 of its 17,000 WiMAX cell sites. Another 5,000 of those sites have already gotten TD-LTE technology, a part of Sprint’s broader LTE network upgrade. Sprint will combine its FDD-LTE network in its 800MHz and 1.9GHz spectrum with a TD-LTE network in its 2.5GHz spectrum. Sprint Spark customers are being offered tri-band equipment that can access either technology. Sprint can use its massive expanse of 2.5GHz spectrum to offload data usage from its lower frequency spectrum, especially in large cities.

Another 5,000 legacy Clearwire cell sites will be upgraded to TD-LTE between now and the end of next year. Sprint expects to deploy TD-LTE more widely than WiMAX, potentially serving 100 cities and 100 million base stations by 2016.

Sprint has protected much of its postpaid customer base from the transition by repeatedly encouraging customers to upgrade to LTE service, now being rolled out as part of its Network Vision plan. But firms like FreedomPop and others that now lease access to the WiMAX network will leave their customers with a shorter upgrade path when WiMAX equipment stops working, requiring users to upgrade to LTE equipment.

Sprint hypes its new tri-band Sprint Spark network, which combines two different LTE networks to deliver faster data speeds. (1:18)

Currently there are 29 comments on this Article:

  1. BillA says:

    Still using the Clear box service since it came out in 2009 in Cleveland Ohio, and was wondering what alternative would you guys recommend once this service goes off the air on Nov. 6th 2015? Trying to stay away from the cable company price gouging… thanks in advance…

    BillA

  2. BrantS says:

    I’ve also been using clear since 2009 (contract days) in Houston TX. I’ll probably tip over to Cable since I do use a lot of Data and I won’t go to Sprint. I’ll stick with my T-Mobile Unlimited LTE… but can only do 5GB of Hot Spot and I’d probably kill that in a day or 2.

    Back when Clearwire announced the LTE Clear I was jumping for joy… but the sale to Sprint killed it. I don’t think there will ever be a truely unlimited service like this again. It’s all Pay Per Gig crap. Whether they give you a lot up front or not, you will still end up paying more than Cable.

    • BillA says:

      Yeah Time Warner Cable wants over $100/mo for “business class” with all kinds of fees like modem rental, franchise fees etc… so the best option I have found so far is with Tmobile totally unlimited gigs like this:
      $ 80 per month
      Unlimited talk, text, and data while on our network
      Unlimited 4G LTE data
      Unlimited international texting from the U.S. to virtually anywhere

      Not bad considering you can refill it with prepaid cards for exactly $80 /mo and you get a pretty good bang for you buck.
      And of course you can use an older android phone as a data router for all your devices. It’s also possible to patch it into an existing router.
      If anyone has anything else, please post.

      BillA

      • I didn’t think there were franchise fees on broadband, just television service. The modem fee you can get rid of by buying your own modem. If T-Mobile is fast and reliable and doesn’t throttle you, it sounds like a good choice.

        • Steve Vreeland says:

          I use T-mobile It is unlimited but it throttles at a particular point (I think mine is at 3000 MB).
          As far as I can tell all they offer is a ‘mobile hot spot’ No Ethernet modem.
          -Has anybody found an Ethernet solution for any body (dsl and cable are unusable here).

  3. Bill Ding says:

    Clear has been a good deal until I caught them throttling me back, and called the executive resolution line with a Fox News Reporter on the line and threatened to OUT them for it, all of a sudden my speed went up and never was throttled again. Like all the internet providors they are all nasty and greedy and ATT being the absolute worst, they want to charge by the gig, like this is a garden hoze spilling gallons of measurable water on the street, its just data, and they have no ethical reason to put the brakes on it, or charge just because they can. The service company that realizes you cant keep screwing your customers will eventually end up with all the business. I just dumped the prostitute ATT for TMobile for my whole company and am saviing at least 40% overall because there are no over-use charges. I hate ATT, and Sprint is the absolute worst for overall thought in service. I dumped my sprint phone because of their 900 mhs crap and i put metalized window tint on my car to protect my leather, and the damn sprint phone quit working as it was shielded. How stupid is that.

    WAKE UP INTERNET COMPANIES, we are not going to let you put a chastity belt on us and limit our access and rape us with charges. Eventually someone will find a way to fight back. SOON !

    • Steve Vreeland says:

      Bill,
      read the fine print. If you go over your plan allotment, you get throttled on t mobile.
      the highest data plan on t mobile is 13GB/month before throttling begins.
      But I use t mobile because they appear to be the most honest and cost effective supplier today.

      Data isn’t free. There is a limited bandwidth. If there is a limited resource, the price will rise.
      And don’t forget, they have to pay those multi-million dollar executive bonuses with something…your money.

      I cannot find a plan with overage costs and no throttling.

      Don’t get your hopes up about losing that chastity belt.
      Nobody is going to lower the price of bandwidth to the great unwashed.
      They are trying to make the internet a class system by the golden rule: he who has the gold makes the rules.

      All you can do is pay more or do without.
      The price will rise until they have excess bandwidth and then it’ll level out.

      Welcome to the 21st century.

      stevev

  4. JD says:

    CLEAR has without a doubt been the absolute BEST internet service I’ve ever (and I’ve used several ISP’s since 1991) used, PERIOD!!!

    Will Sprint adapt its New Tri-Speed technology to Wireless Home Internet like Clear?

  5. Justin says:

    So with the notification of clear going by the wayside I’ve already switched my ISP and now officially canceled my clear service. All of that said, is he clear modem just a paperweight awaiting a trip to the dump or are there alternative uses for it? I’ve googled about as much as I could and couldn’t find much. Some say something about using it as a repeater to strengthen the signal in other parts of the house by connecting it to my new isp’s modem. Anything else you guys know about would be appreciated.

  6. Sandra Haddock says:

    I was with Clearwire for years and the service was great. Since they sold out to Sprint, the service is awful. Slow and sometimes completely DEAD. I would never and won’t ever recommend Sprint to anyone. I’m searching for a new provider, and I can damn well say it will not have any connections with the suck ass Sprint! They can jump off! I HATE SPRINT!! I hope they fail in everything they do and I’m praying that God shows them the way to destroy themselves, He obviously did to Clear/Clearwire. I am a nurse, and I will never recommend Sprint to my patients or my co-workers. I will continue to talk bad about Sprint and I will use my own experience to emphasize this. I have been online since 1996 and never had such awful totally awful service as I’ve had with Sprint since Clear/Clearwire sold out to this low-life. Sprint can and should GO TO HELL!

  7. Juan V says:

    What is the alternative. I loved to be able to go to sleep at night listening to something streaming over the network. I need to keep my costs low for connecting mobile but would like to still be able to have unlimited. There needs to be competition and I’m not seeing any. I am not liking Sprint for what they are doing to us Clear customers of years. They value us so much that they don’t even offer a real solution. A letter needs to be written to their CEOs en mass.

  8. BillA says:

    Guess I’ve been the lucky few who has never been throttled on Clear despite using 50+ gigs a month and consistently getting 1Mbps-up/8Mbps-down every single day of the month. Not super fast but does the job.

    Some have mentioned that the Tmobile $80/month prepaid which is advertised as unlimited would be throttled, however I didn’t see anything in the fine-print. Simple Mobile offers $55/month up to 10gigs fast LTE then slowed down which could be a replacement option for Clear for those with low usage, using an ethernet LTE modem plugged into your existing router just like a Clear box.

    The search continues…

  9. PatE says:

    Well…looks like I need to find a new internet provider! Clear pretty much LIED to us when we called them about the email service being dropped. We were told that the internet service would still be available, just no more email accounts. Our internet has been getting slower and slower, a lot of the time we have no service at all! Now we find out (from searching the internet) all service will be discontinued. Guess they just want people to continue to pay for shi**y service as long as they can collect and then drop them at the last minute!

    And where we live (out in the country) we have limited service providers (no cable services, etc) pretty much only satellite now. Clearwire was the best option for us and now we will be stuck with Hughes or some other service which will cost a bloody fortune.

  10. Michelle M says:

    I have also been a loyal customer to Clear for years and never had any problems until Sprint bought them out. From that point on, our internet grew slower and slower. It used to be that my kids could play their games online, while hubby and I surfed the web or played our games online as well and the youngest watching Netflix…all while my sons friends were on their iphones on fb and such with no problems. Now, if just one of my sons is watching Netflix, no one else can play online or even scroll through Facebook. Since the beginning of June, the internet shuts down several times a day now..for anywhere from 10 minutes to a couple of hours. This is terrible. I will NOT have anything to do with Sprint..who in my opinion only bought out their better competition in order to shut it down and thereby generate more business for the parent company. So mad that now I’ll be forced to go elsewhere for less service at a gouging rate. Thank you Sprint for absolutely nothing and I will never promote any of your ventures.

  11. Sandy Salter says:

    I, too, am looking for a comparable (if that’s possible) alternative to Clear. Great information being posted by you all! I’m learning a lot by reading all the comments and am very appreciative! Keep up the good work!

  12. johnno says:

    H20 is like the clear devices and is $55 not 60/month. I talked to them about a year ago and they used the same system wimax as clear. I also heard Netzero uses the same system too (and saw an add just last week they are still selling their hardware devices evidently knowing they wont work in 4 months) hmmm… and nothing nothing this that I saw yet. So unless H20 and Netzero are one of the companies that cut a deal to keep using the system (I saw a list with a few companies so Sprint will still be selling the service out to some) they are not being forthright with people, but otherwise they may be a duplicate-alternative to clear (except Netzero charges WAY too much for the exact service as H20 and Clear did.

  13. Dennis says:

    Everyone on here fails to acknowledge the blatant fact that Sprint never intended to maintain the Clear WiMax system to begin with. With only a minority ownership and not the financial resources to properly build out the system, its only interest was the tower and site leases that Clear had. With these leases it made them more marketable, hense the immediate sale to Softbank following Clears acquisition. Those of us who have been with and stood by Clearwire from the beginning are just again dubbed casualties of the McCaw experience. (ie McCaw Cellular, Cellular One which were sold off to AT&T wireless for a serious profit.)

  14. Tony says:

    I have been wondering about the outages and slowdowns here lately. I had assumed it was due to the thunderstorms we have been having. Looks as if T Mob is the best option so far. Does anyone know of “tethering” options outside of the “hotspot” capped version using an android phone as a modem?

  15. Robert Raleigh says:

    Hi, everybody.

    You all know a lot more about all this technical stuff than I do, so I hope you can help met. For years I’ve had a Clear (and before that Clearwire) box on my desk in my home office. It’s plugged into my desktop and it has done just fine. I use it for work — emails and the like — and I don’t download movies or music. I got the notice that they were stopping email support, so I got a gmail account. Now they’re saying there won’t be any Clear service at all come November.

    I don’t have a cable outlet in my home office, and I can’t imagine dealing with a satellite system for my very basic needs. I just want to know where I can find another little wireless box that will let me go to the websites I use for work, send and receive emails, and so forth. I’ve been doing research on the web, but I clearly don’t know what I’m doing. Can somebody help?

    Thanks so much.

    Robert

  16. Mario says:

    I have the same problem with Clear, but I am using Freedompop and it has worked very well. You have to make sure you turn off the automatic top off. I paid extra $50 this month because they claim I used over 10 gig. Other than that it has worked very well, even when traveling. I am paying about $45 per month for 5 gig, and their 10 gig is $69.99. In the past tried Tmobile and it was terrible. Have not tried lately. I am even looking at iridum satellite service for unlimited data and some minutes for phones for $169.99. Not sure about the speed yet. The only problem is the initial cost to purchase the device for about &900.00. Still investigating. If I am already paying $45.00 and about $60 for unlimited Clear, + the 5 gig data on my cricket account, another $20.00 that is a total of $135.00. Why not just use iridum for unlimited. Of course that would depend on how deep is your pocket, but the way wireless companies are wanting to rape us, the satellite solution is not that bad. Just found out that the unlimited plan on Tmobile is for the phone, with only 7 gig for the hot spot, but for another $10 you get another 5 gig on a hot spot device. I am trying it. Anyone has any objections, bad comments about Tmobile new Plan ?

  17. Amy says:

    so my question is can this clear wimax router be hacked to recieve the signal from the sprint unlimited plan? there’s got to be some way to do that. I went to the sprint unlimited plan but I don’t get great signal at work. ok signal at home. Clear still works for me in both locations. I was planning on doing the hotspot tethering thing but sprint makes you pay extra for that and then it’s only limited. what to do. what to do

  18. Deon Bolden says:

    I have been dealing with your clear wire services for 4 years now and mainly concerned about what you’re going to be doing for your customers after this due date that has been posted that the company has been bought out by Sprint! It’s an pleasure dealing with you all’s services throughout my years of being provided services. Please get back to me about matte. Thank you.

  19. Readers interested in the Clearwire shutdown and possible alternatives may find this new article useful: http://wp.me/p2GbIL-ay3

  20. vince Onofrio says:

    I have been with clear or Clearwire since they started. No real hassles until recently when I all of sudden lost my signal connection way before the stated November deadline. Like all of you, I have been searching for an alternative and I prefer one that is not cable. I have appreciated all the comments previously given about potential alternatives. What I could use more information about are PDA tethering options for the IPhone, as I have an unlimited wireless plan with them and could use it as a hot spot without paying the hot spot fee. I also could use info on satellite internet options like EXEDE that anyone has used. Thanks in advance for all the info and keep it coming.

  21. L Morrissey says:

    Sprint decommissioned the CLEAR WiMax hardware on the tower nearest my house about 8 days ago and effectively turned my CLEAR modem into a brick. This happened at about the mid-point (July 20) of my service period (July 6 – August 5) but they will not refund any pro-rated amount for the half month which I did not receive. The tower I used to connect to is <100 yards from my house which was great except that the next nearest tower is almost 2 miles away through thick foliage and other obstructions.

    Earlier today I ordered AT&T U-VERSE (probably out of the frying pan and into the fire) and then I cancelled my CLEAR service. Oh well…I guess it was good while it lasted.

    In summary, CLEAR/SPRINT don't seem to really give a darn that they have inconvenienced my family and I. It really feels like this is SPRINTs way of saying they don't want to be in the home ISP business.

  22. Willie Lockett says:

    Basic Internet!

  23. JOE says:

    Hello Everyone. I am in the same boat. Had clear for ages and dont know what to do. I liked being able to take my clear wireless router with me when I traveled around california and use it everywhere. We used the Clear service as a home ISP. Someone has to have found a solution for people like us who cant get DSL or Cable internet and need unlimited wireless data for home.

    I was actually one of the happy Clear customers LOL. I have been using it for about 5 years and get 8-13MB down and 1MB up the entire time even still now. The problem is I use my ROKU for TV most of the time so we use alot of data. I use 100GB of data on Clear every single month and sometimes close to 200GB if I am binge watching on Netflix.

    SOMEONE please find all of us a solution. Is there really no one who offers unlimited data for home wirelessly?

  24. L Morrissey says:

    Unfortunately, my solution was AT&T U-verse.

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