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June 11, 2007

A new Cleawire competitor?

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 1:50 PM

To date, Kirkland-based Clearwire offers wireless broadband service to consumers as an alternative to DSL or cable in more than 35 U.S. markets, and Sprint Nextel is on its way to serving even more customers.

But DigitalBridge Communications and Alvarion sort of trumped both today by announcing at the WCA 2007, a annual wireless convention in Washington, D.C., that they have launched a network in Rexburg, Idaho.

The network is supposedly using true WiMax equipment (Alvarion's BreezeMAX 802.16e platform), rather than the proprietary equipment used by Clearwire. That makes it one of the first commercial WiMax networks in the country.

The service is expected to reach more than 7,000 homes and businesses in Rexburg and the surrounding areas, with plans to extend service coverage in Southeast Idaho and Montana in the coming months. Service plans deliver speeds up to 3 Mbps and subscribers are able to connect anywhere in the DigitalBridge service area by taking their modem with them.

The service, although claiming to be WiMax, still doesn't sound truly mobile -- which is the ultimate promise of the technology. It is continually described on the company's Web site and in the press release">press release as being nomadic or portable. It's also unclear what the modem looks like. On the Web site, DigitalBridge said it must be plugged in a computer and an electrical outlet, which I'm guessing would make it a separate device, rather than a laptop card.

Today, Clearwire service is considered portable because it must be plugged in to the wall and a computer (and would fit into a briefcase, but not a purse). Clearwire offers service up to 1.5 mbps, or slightly slower.

DigitalBridge did not disclose its prices on its Web site without a potential user's Rexburg address. But after entering the Rexburg's Chamber of Commerce information, this is what I found out.

-- For 2 Mbps, you pay $29.99 a month plus $3.99 a month modem rental fee (signing a one-year contract will save you $60).

-- For 3 Mbps, it's $39.99 a month plus a $3.99 a month for a modem rental fee (signing an annual contract will save you $60).

That's a better deal than what Clearwire is offering.

-- For 1.5 mbps, it's $36.99 a month for a two-year subscription (the first three months are discounted to save $50). This plan is also available on a month-to-month basis for $50 a month.

-- For 768 Kbps, it's $29.99 a month for a two-year subscription (the first three months are discounted to save $80).

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Tricia Duryee
Tricia Duryee
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Angel Gonzalez
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Kristi Heim
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