Good news for me and my local Rhode Island peeps. Clearwire has rolled out 4G service to the Providence, RI area — covering as far south as East Greenwich, RI and as far north as Attleboro, MA — so i’m covered…at least I’m supposed to be.
The rollout of 4G is an important development for the mobile industry as smartphones are poised to finally overtake feature phones next year (see graphic below) and smartphones are driving much greater use of the mobile web, streaming of video, etc. — all of which requires the higher bandwidth that 4G is supposed to deliver.
Clearwire is the technology that underpins Sprint’s 4G network. I’m pretty happy about the announcment as I’m already an owner of a Sprint Overdrive 4G-capable MiFi device. We had bought that to power the WiFi Apple iPad we got rather than buying a 3G iPad. I figured that 4G was coming and the Overdrive gave us the flexibility to benefit from 4G when and were available, rather than be limited to 3G…especially AT&T 3G. Plus the Overdrive can and has also provided connections to our notebooks and other devices. So my strategy worked…almost. Unfortunately, I’m only getting 3G coverage in my home, even though I’m in the supposed coverage area. Hopefully that will resolve itself at some point.
Now they cover Boston too and that’s great, I just wish they covered the BOS-NYC Amtrak route. I think anyone will tell you that while there is now WiFi on Acela, the service itself is actually abysmal. Of course they’ll probably have to get coverage in NYC first before they take that on. But I know many travelers would appreciate it.
Clearwire’s 4G technology, branded as CLEAR 4G is based on WiMAX technology, not traditional cellular. According to Clearwire, their 4G service 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. I was going to try to verify the download speeds, but as mentioned above, I can’t get the 4G coverage in my house. I have used the 4G network while in Seattle and while the speeds were definitely faster than 3G, I didn’t experience the speeds that the press release suggests.
Now Clearwire and Sprint are continuing to roll out 4G to a number of cities. You can see a detailed coverage map of CLEAR 4G service here.
If you’re interested, view the the full press release.
One other thing before I end. When the press release was sent to me, so was a link to a YouTube video describing the benefits of 4G. Of course this uses cute-looking animation now favored by many marketing departments. But I didn’t think this gave realistic use cases of the service and unfortunately included a segment where the “Dad” in the family accessed the 4G network from a public men’s room. Now I’ve seen this use case in action, but I’m pretty sure that I wouldn’t have included it. The perils of trying be “cute and edgy”. See for yourself and make your own judgement.