Since Clearwire launched in Seattle during November, it has made a seriously big effort in getting the word out.
The Kirkland company, which is providing a cutting edge wireless broadband service, has advertised in the Seattle market via direct mail, a Seattle-specific Web site, newspapers, billboards and all over radio.
It's very hard to miss.
But there seems to already be a slight change in the message, moving from just getting the word out about Clearwire, to letting people know the service is portable -- they can take it with them as long as they don't mind lugging around a hardback book-sized modem, and finding an electrical socket to plug it into.
The latest radio commercial features a woman who is speed dating. She meets men, including "DSL," "cable" and "dial-up." In the quickie introductions to each one, she learns that DSL and cable don't like leaving the house, and dial-up still lives at home with his parents. When she finally meets Clearwire, it's a breath of fresh air -- he's flexible and willing to stay in, or go out. Whatever.
Portability is definitely a new idea for broadband. Up until now, people have tended to purchase DSL or cable for the home, and supplement it elsewhere with Wi-Fi. I think the question is, how will people adapt within a household? Typically multiple people may use an Internet connection. If someone takes it out of the house, what will the rest of the household do at home?
I can see it now: broadband family plans.
The commercials also reiterate how important the Seattle market is to Clearwire. It is perhaps the most competitive market it has entered, the most challenging for rolling out ua wireless service in terms of terrain, and it is by far the largest.
In the company's IPO filing, the "big" factor is clear. In a chart, it lists the 34 markets Clearwire has entered, how long it has been in each market and the number of people it covers.
For the Seattle/Tacoma market, it says it has covered a potential 2.1 million people for one month. The next largest market is in Jacksonville, Fla. where it has 700,000 people for 26 months. The smallest market is in Roseburg, where it has been covering 21,700 people, for 15 months. The median market size is 134,000.
In terms of size, Seattle is Clearwire's biggest bet yet.