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[Updated] Clearwire Launches 4G Service in Rochester & Syracuse, Road Runner Mobile Also Forthcoming

Phillip Dampier July 1, 2010 Broadband Speed, Competition, Data Caps, Wireless Broadband 6 Comments

[The article was updated at 10:30am to include promotional and coverage information not available when the article was published late last night]

Clearwire today announced the launch of its 4G mobile broadband service for businesses and consumers in Rochester and Syracuse, New York.  Designed to deliver the Internet at speeds four times faster than 3G, CLEAR is priced comparably to many wireless broadband plans, but has no usage caps.

Pricing from their website offers customers stay-at-home and mobile service plans (or both).  Customers choosing month-to-month service have to buy the equipment up front, starting at $70 and pay a $35 activation fee.  Those who commit to a two-year service contract can lease the equipment for $4-6 a month and skip start-up fees.  Packages start at $40 a month for 6/1Mbps service.  At $55 a month, they take the speed limit off, providing occasional bursts of wireless speed up to 10Mbps.  Another $15 on top of that buys you nationwide 3G roaming.  Sales tax is not included.  Customers get a 14 day trial period to evaluate the service and can cancel within that window with no obligation, although our Jay Ovittore reports they’ll drag you through the cancellation process.

At $40 for unlimited use, CLEAR’s 4G service beats Cricket, which charges the same price for 3G speeds, but limits consumption to 5GB per month before they start throttling your speed to dial-up.  Other mobile broadband services typically charge up to $60 for 5GB of usage at 3G speeds.  Ironically, while 4G service from Clearwire is unlimited, the slower 3G speed service is not — there is a usage limit of 5GB per month on the 3G network, and then overlimit fees of five cents per megabyte kick in.

A statement from the company released early this morning talks up the fact CLEAR does not burden their 4G customers with Internet Overcharging schemes like other wireless broadband providers.

“Our residents now have a fast Internet connection that’s as mobile as they are,” said Jerry Brown, regional general manager for CLEAR. “And we’re thrilled to offer affordable rate plans with no limits on the amount of data customers use. No caps on usage, no penalties – our customers just use the Web as much as they want wherever they go – it’s that simple.”

Clearwire's coverage area in Rochester & Syracuse

In Rochester, CLEAR covers approximately 560 square miles and more than 600,000 people with service extending as far north as Lake Ontario, as far south as Canandaigua and Geneva (Ontario County), as far west as Spencerport, and as far east as Webster.

In Syracuse, CLEAR covers nearly 230 square miles and more than 265,000 people with service extending as far north as Brewerton, as far south as Nedrow, Auburn, and Cortland; as far west as Village Green, and as far east as Fayetteville and Manlius.

However, the company’s 4G coverage area is spotty in many areas in both cities.  Verifying coverage from their website is essential before considering CLEAR.  Anecdotal reports from some of our readers and others suggest 4G service from Clearwire is not nearly as robust as 3G service from some other providers, and dead zones and slow speeds have caused some to cancel service.  Here’s an example of their coverage in my part of the town of Brighton, just southeast of Rochester:

Clearwire's coverage of the 12 Corners/Elmwood Avenue area of Brighton, N.Y.

Some minor gaps in coverage are apparent near Commonwealth Drive, and if you were getting gas at the 12 Corners Mobil station or visiting Citizens Bank behind it, you’d be out of luck, but otherwise coverage looks fairly good to the west of Interstate 590.  However, a very strange gap pops up between Valley Road and South Grosvenor Road, also impacting a few apartment buildings at Elmwood Court Apartments, 3100 Elmwood Avenue.  That’s odd because although that part of Elmwood slopes slightly downwards, it’s still much higher than the homes on Valley Road or the apartments further back in the complex.  A major service gap opens up on Elmwood at Clovercrest Drive and extends into the very tony neighborhoods around Ambassador Drive and Clover Street.  But the country club set will do fine browsing away on the golf course at the Rochester Country Club further east.

In short, service can vary dramatically street by street, block by block, from nothing at all to full speed ahead.  Be sure to check your area before you commit to keeping the service, much less sign a two year contract for it.

For the rest of Rochester, if you live in the city or an inner-ring suburb, coverage is generally available.  Those further out in towns like Henrietta, North Chili, southern Pittsford, Honeoye Falls, Avon, Scottsville, Churchville, Brockport, Penfield and Perinton face significant gaps or no coverage at all.  Things improve dramatically in Ontario County in towns like Farmington and Victor and the cities of Canandaigua and Geneva.

For the greater Syracuse area, coverage pops up in Auburn and then disappears eastward until reaching Camillus.  Generally, coverage in Syracuse is not nearly as dense as in Rochester, with large gaps opening between suburbs and the city itself.  Mattydale is solidly covered, for instance, while Minoa isn’t.

Now that CLEAR has launched 4G service in Rochester and Syracuse, Road Runner Mobile, which is simply CLEAR rebranded as a Time Warner Cable service (they partly own Clearwire) will also soon be on the way.  Pricing in other Time Warner Cable cities wasn’t much different than from Clearwire direct, and some cable plans really push service contracts, which you really do not want on a service this new.  Do not commit to one unless you are satisfied with the service where you plan on using it.

Clearwire’s 4G Network in 2010

CLEAR 4G service is currently available in 44 markets across the United States, including: Syracuse and Rochester, N.Y.; Atlanta and Milledgeville, Ga.; Baltimore, Md.; Boise, Idaho; Chicago, Ill.; Las Vegas, Nev.; St. Louis and Kansas City, Mo.; Philadelphia, Harrisburg, Reading, Lancaster and York, Pa.; Charlotte, Raleigh, and Greensboro, NC; Honolulu and Maui, Hawaii; Seattle, Tri-Cities, Yakima and Bellingham, Wash.; Salem, Portland and Eugene, Ore.; Merced and Visalia; Calif.; Dallas/Ft. Worth, Houston, San Antonio, Austin, Abilene, Amarillo, Corpus Christi, Killeen/Temple, Lubbock, Midland/Odessa, Waco and Wichita Falls, Texas; central Washington, D.C.; Richmond, Va.; and Salt Lake City, Utah.

In the summer of 2010, CLEAR 4G will launch in Tampa, Orlando and Daytona, Fla.; Nashville, Tenn.; Modesto and Stockton, Calif.; Wilmington, Del.; and Grand Rapids, Mich. By the end of 2010, CLEAR 4G will also be available in major metropolitan areas such as New York City, Los Angeles, the San Francisco Bay Area, Boston, Denver, Minneapolis, Miami, Cincinnati, Cleveland and Pittsburgh.

You can read a company-provided tutorial about the service below the jump.

(The following information comes direct from Clearwire)

A CLEAR Difference

The CLEAR experience is similar to Wi-Fi but without the short-range limitations. CLEAR uses WiMAX, a wireless 4G technology that differs from Wi-Fi because it provides service areas measured in miles, not feet. CLEAR also offers average mobile download speeds of 3 to 6 mbps with bursts over 10 mbps.* Outside the CLEAR 4G service area, dual-mode 4G/3G modems keep users continually connected by leveraging Sprint’s 3G data network.

With CLEAR, people stay better connected and more productive. For example:

  • A travelling business executive no longer needs to seek out Wi-Fi hotspots or be constrained by the speeds and limitations of 3G modem cards;
  • A college student can now have affordable Internet service whether at home, on campus or on-the-go;
  • A commuter can now work on large files or stream their favorite shows while riding the bus or train;
  • A busy parent can now keep kids occupied studying or playing games in the back of the family minivan.

Unlike service plans from traditional wireless carriers which cap data usage, CLEAR offers unlimited 4G usage plans that do not require long-term service contracts. In most markets unlimited 4G coverage from CLEAR starts at $30 for the home while unlimited mobile plans start as low as $40. Bundled services such as Home and On-The-Go and Home and Voice plans start at $55 per month.

Simply Plug-In and Go

Clearwire offers several ways to connect to CLEAR 4G service – via a modem, mobile device, or a 4G-embedded laptop or netbook.

CLEAR 4G Mobile Hotspots: The CLEAR Spot 4G is a personal mobile hotspot allowing users to easily and securely share unlimited super fast Internet access anywhere CLEAR has coverage simultaneously with up to eight Wi-Fi-enabled devices including laptops, smartphones, and portable gaming devices. The CLEAR Spot 4G+ allows power users and road warriors to stay connected across the U.S. by automatically switching from 4G and connecting to Sprint’s 3G nationwide network outside the 4G coverage area. The CLEAR Spot 4G+ enables users to securely share the connection with up to five Wi-Fi-enabled devices at the same time. The CLEAR Spot 4G costs $99.99 or can be leased for $4.99 a month. The CLEAR Spot 4G+ costs $224.99 or can be leased for $5.99 per month. The CLEAR Spot products can be preordered at www.clear.com/spot and will available nationwide at CLEAR stores and authorized dealers later this month.

CLEAR 4G+ Mobile USB: Mobile users simply plug-in the compact CLEAR 4G+ Mobile USB into their laptop to get online. This dual-mode 4G/3G modem gives users access to the 4G network in the CLEAR coverage area and to 3G coverage nationwide. The CLEAR 4G+ Mobile USB costs $114.99 or can be leased monthly for $5.99.

Home Modems: For residential service, CLEAR offers customers a wireless high-speed modem, about the size of a small book. Customers simply plug the modem into a power outlet anywhere in their home or office and connect the modem to their PC or wireless router. This enables consumers and businesses to install high-speed Internet service without the need to schedule an appointment, drill holes in their walls, or otherwise disrupt their day. The CLEAR Home Modem can be purchased for $84.99 or leased for $4.99 monthly.

Embedded 4G WiMAX Laptops: CLEAR customers can also select from one of 32 different 4G-ready laptops and netbooks with Intel® CoreTM or AtomTM processors and the embedded Intel® wireless module Advanced-N + WiMAX from leading manufacturers including Dell, Lenovo, Samsung, and Toshiba. A detailed list of 4G-ready laptops and netbooks is available at www.clear.com. 4G-ready laptops can also be purchased at Best Buy stores nationwide.

CLEAR 4G products and services are available for purchase by going online at www.clear.com/new-york, calling 1-877-499-6681, or visiting a CLEAR retail store or other authorized CLEAR dealer. CLEAR service is also available from other outlets including Best Buy and Radio Shack.

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Jay Ovittore
14 years ago

I wouldn’t get all that excited. I tried Clear’s 4G service here in Greensboro, NC and well…it wasn’t all that fast. I live less then 3 miles from our downtown area, far from the country and they couldn’t deliver service. I was getting less then 1mbps down and .8 up. As for the refund…I had to fight tooth and nail for the full refund as they tried to pull the pro-rate your service scam. I eventually got a full refund, but it was as painful as trying to cancel a gym membership! For now, I am stuck attached to the… Read more »

14 years ago

It’s kind of a strange sentence, but I take the first sentence of the second paragraph to mean the plan is $40/month for a purported 6/1 Mbps wireless service using a $70 USB dongle, correct?

Jeff at Clearwire
Jeff at Clearwire
14 years ago

@Brion- Plans vary in pricing depending on whether or not you want dual-mode (3G/4G) or just 4G. 4G only plans start at $40, dual mode plans start at $55. Recently we released the first dual-mode USB dongle for Macs as well as two new hot spot devices that let you provide internet for multiple devices. Dealers will often have specials on devices depending on the service you get to go along with it, so that $70 dongle may be cheaper if you shop around.

Jeff at Clearwire

13 years ago

I am a current Clear user. I was happy for a long time. I live in the Portland, OR area. I was also a Clearwire customer for 3 years before Clear Launched. I was on it the first week it launched. I was so Excited. IT was everything it said it was. till they started to Grow. Every time they turn on a new network, it will shut down others. Entire cities go down. Now here for the past few months I have been getting bad speed tests. They replace my modems. time goes by. like almost a month. then… Read more »

13 years ago

Clear is a dreadful company. Not only was I capped at 25kb/s… I was told that I would have to earn the trust of the Clear Network Team before they released me from the 25k cap. She asked me what I was doing to use 125GB of data. I was shocked by this question…. how is that her business? But being desperate I told her that I would no longer backup my webserver to my home computer and would instead use a server from Amazon. She said that wasn’t enough and that she needed more of a commitment. I told… Read more »

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