Uncrossing the Wires – Can Clearwire be Fixed?

Clearwire is the first major WiMax broadband service offering. The company initially launched with fixed-line replacement broadband for people’s homes or offices. This puts them into direct competition with cable and DSL providers. Let’s look at the landscape to see how Clearwire stacks up:

Provider Plan Name Price Speed Term
Clearwire ClearPremium Choice $26.99 1.5 Mbps 2 yrs
Clearwire ClearPremium Plus $44.99 2.0 Mbps 2 yrs (3 mos. at $19.99)
Qwest Faster $44.99 1.5Mbps 2 yrs ($26.99 with home phone)
Qwest Fastest $54.99 7.0 Mbps 2 yrs ($36.99 with home phone)
Comcast High Speed Internet $52.95 6.0 Mbps 0 yrs ($42.95 with cable TV)

As you can see, Clearwire’s service offerings are not necessarily any cheaper or faster. In fact, existing Qwest Local Phone and Comcast Cable TV subscribers can get 4x faster access for less money. So why would anyone go with Clearwire?

They are priced at parity with Qwest on their voice bundle:

Provider Plan Name Price Speed Term
Clearwire Clearwire Voice Bundle $71.98 1.5 Mbps 2 yrs (3 mos. at $24.98)
Qwest Unlim LongDist Bundle $71.98 1.5 Mbps 2 yrs

But what about mobility? Clearwire announced a PC card service recently that is $10 a month cheaper and slightly faster, but their coverage area is terrible in comparison to Sprint and soon to AT&T as well. Here is how the mobile plans compare:

Provider Plan Name Price Speed Term
Clearwire PC Card Premium $49.99 1.5 Mbps 2 yrs
AT&T DataConnect $59.99 1.4 Mbps 2 yrs (5 GB limit)
Sprint Mobile Broadband $59.99 1.4 Mbps 2 yrs

Clearwire also has a home/mobile bundle, but if you’ve got a mobile broadband PC card, what do you need home broadband for unless it is significantly faster (which Clearwire’s isn’t):

Provider Plan Name Price Speed Term
Clearwire ClearPremium Plus w/ PC $79.99 2.0 Mbps 2 yrs (1.5 Mbps mobile)

So why would anyone signup with Clearwire?

Frankly I’m not sure why someone would unless they have no other option. Clearwire has no clear advantage.

As an outsider looking in, if I were advising Clearwire, here is what I would do:

  1. Abandon the home broadband market in metropolitan areas with good cable and DSL coverage
  2. Focus on rural areas and smaller metropolitan areas with poor coverage where they may have a unique offer
  3. In metropolitan areas, focus on the mobile broadband market and pushing the speed/pricing envelope
  4. Focus on developing a WiMax signal booster that can be plugged into any AC or DC power source
  5. Explore alternative pricing models, possibly including advertising-supported service (as an option)
  6. Push the Sprint partnership through to expand the value of the combined Sprint/Clearwire WiMax offering
  7. Could PC cards be used to somehow improve WiFi reception?
  8. Support automatic switching to faster user-approved WiFi connection points when in range
  9. Partner with local phone or cable companies to be their mobile broadband providers
  10. Get Clearwire technology embedded in new laptops along with antennas that boost both WiMax and WiFi reception
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Braden Kelley

Braden Kelley is a Design Thinking, Innovation and Transformation Consultant, a popular innovation speaker and workshop leader, and helps companies use Human-Centered Change™ to beat the 70% change failure rate. He is the author of Charting Change from Palgrave Macmillan and Stoking Your Innovation Bonfire from John Wiley & Sons. Braden has been advising companies since 1996, while living and working in England, Germany, and the United States. Braden earned his MBA from top-rated London Business School. Follow him on Twitter and Linkedin.




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