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November 16, 2006

WiMax: the hype, and the truth

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 12:51 PM

The Clearwire launch event reminded me of the last time I was at the Space Needle, when another WiMax-like service was launching. In May 2005, Seattle-based Speakeasy said it was going to beam a the service from the top of the Space Needle and four other locations in Seattle to provide wireless Internet access.

Speakeasy CEO Bruce Chatterley made the announcement at Space Needle, where he walked around the tourist attraction's halo while wearing a harness on.

At the time, the launch was being called the first deployment of its scope in the U.S. -- both in size and complexity. Using equipment from Intel and Alvarion, the rooftop base stations were going to provide access in a 5-square-mile area.

The service was slightly different than Clearwire's offering because it was not aimed at consumers, but being sold to business customers as an alternative or backup to a fixed T1 connection. The monthly cost was from $500 to $800, depending on speed. For comparison, Clearwire charges up to $42 a month.

When I called Speakeasy officials earlier this week, they said they are no longer providing the service. Although a couple of early customers may still be using it, it is no longer a focus, said company spokeswoman Lynn Brackpool.

She said Speakeasy has instead opted to focus its energy, resources and efforts on rolling out voice over Internet Protocol.

Clearwire faces some of the same pressure. Because Seattle is the largest of its 32 markets it has launched in to date, everyone will be watching to see if it will work.

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Tricia Duryee
Tricia Duryee
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