Clearwire’s CEO Ben Wolff On The WiMax Rollout

imageToday, during Clearwire’s presentation in Portland, the company offered answers to some of the obvious questions about its new WiMax initiative: Why do people need WiMax? Why Portland? What are the products, and the cost of the services? And how will the economic climate affect things? But it waived off much larger issues, like how prices compare to the competition, and how they will balance a speedy roll-out with the need to preserve cash. As for the answer on price, it’s somewhat similar to what you pay today for DSL and a 3G data card. In the 700-square mile area, serving 1.7 million people, Clearwire (NSDQ: CLWR) is charging $40 a month for home Internet access. A modem for your laptop costs an additional $50 a month — for the fast, unlimited service (6 mbps down and 512 kbps up). For the first six months of a two-year contract, the bundled price will include a $20 discount every month. Currently, there’s no dual-mode options that would allow you to roam on to a 3G network when not in the Portland area. A day pass is $10 and occasional usage, which includes 200 megabytes, costs $30 a month.

More after the jump

Why WiMax?: Wolff: “We are doing for the Internet what cellular did for voice communications. The Internet is going to become center of people’s lives.”

Why Portland?: “We’ve spent the last two years building out the network in Portland, which encompasses 1.7 million people in the greater metro area. .. We chose Portland for a number of reasons. It’s a pretty tech-savvy city, we have residents that understand the power of wireless and technology, and it’s also home to the part of Intel (NSDQ: INTC) that has been driving the WiMax ecosystem forward.”

On the economic climate: Clearwire’s CTO Scott Richardson: “A lot of people want to do more for less. At Clear, we think we can offer more for less. We think all roads lead to wireless, over the next five to six years, whether it’s for entertainment or shopping.”

The products: Richardson: “We offer business packages and residential services. Pay by the day, or the month, and there’s a no contract business model. For those who want to have bundle that combine home and away, or multiple businesses, or for those who want a two-year agreement, we’ll offer discounts. What we can do is deliver on a single service, ring home phone, or ring mobile phone, or put two phone numbers on a mobile phone. A dual-mode modem will allow connectivity in WiMax and 3G for travelers. You can activate the device at home, or on street corner, and the service plans are the same. We have retail stores, and the Web, and have retailers, like Best Buy and Radio Shack.

The brand: “We have to act different. We want to focus on simplicity; we want a frank tone, and we have campaign, with jumbled words, like eT’sL eB rLeac. A TV campaign will compare the services to the competitors.”

On why the service needs to be mobile: Wolff: “Ninety percent of the population spends 90 percent of their time in their home networks. That’s true on consumer side, but on the small- and medium-size business side, there’s plumbers and electricians, real estate and trades people.”

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