Clearwire 4G Users Best Stay Month to Month
Earlier this month, Verizon Wireless(VZ) matched other American carriers such as Sprint(S) and T-Mobile by rolling out an ultrafast wireless standard called LTE. The new network, launched in 38 U.S. cities, is seriously fast, at least based on the performance of early devices from LG and Pantech. When working properly, LTE can compete with broadband data access you can get from the likes of Comcast(CMCSA) , Time Warner(TWX) and yes, even Verizon itself.
The thing is, these big carriers are hardly the only 4G players on the market. A slew of third-party wireless wannabes also are offering faster-than-3G access. Once-lowly MetroPCS(PCS) , for example, offers an LTE network similar to Verizon's in six markets. And so-called WiMax connectivity is being sold by cable operations such as Comcast and Cablevision(CVC) .
To get a feel for how the alternative independent 4G markets might help the average small business, I have been testing the latest 4G offering from Clearwire: the Clear 4G+ mobile USB modem ($115 or $6 per month leased with a two-year contract; month-to-month rates start at $55).
What you get
This is perfectly reasonable wireless access at a perfectly reasonable price.
If there has been a bigger drama queen than Clearwire in the wireless world, I haven't seen it. Owned by -- among others -- Sprint, Comcast, Time Warner, Google(GOOG) and Intel(INTC) , the company has been at the center of controversies over system quality and customer service, not to mention the rumors that it does not have enough cash to actually build out its networks.
But at least for this lowly tester, it is hard to see where the drama is coming from. The product came to my shop as a professional-looking add-on data modem. I dropped it into my test Toshiba Portege R500 USB port, and with a few clicks, poof ... I was online. Coverage with the slower 3G network around my Westchester, N.Y., home and around the New York City area in 4G were solid.