We’ve known that Clearwire (s CLWR) soft-launched its CLEAR WiMAX service in “sin city” some time ago, but it becomes more official on July 21. The company has invited press and media contacts for an afternoon of demos, likely similar to what I experienced at the Baltimore launch last year. From 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. on launch day, Clearwire is hosting a consumer event at Town Square Mall, 6605 Las Vegas Boulevard South, Las Vegas. Folks who are curious about the benefits of WiMAX can experience it for themselves, get a look at WiMAX devices, and hear about the unique pricing plans that Clearwire is offering.
Since the Las Vegas market has already been enjoying fast wireless broadband, this seems more like a marketing event. But it’s good news for WiMAX fans, as it shows that Clearwire is sticking to its rollout plan for 2009 so far. Bear in mind that the plan for 2009 is 10 markets. Lighting up Las Vegas officially brings us to three, so there’s a long road to hoe. That’s been the biggest sticking point — getting the service quickly enabled in major markets. Right now, I think one of our readers who used the service sums up that point best:
I have enjoyed the ClearWire service, but I will probably cancel…The data services by ATT and Verizon are close to ubiquitous in populated areas. Guaranteed access is more important to me than sheer speed of connection when I’m on the go.
That’s a powerful statement, and it underlies the rollout constraints. Another challenge is marketing, but events like the one on July 21 can go a long way to helping that cause. Although I live near the Philadelphia market, I haven’t seen any WiMAX marketing at all. That could be due to me living outside the planned coverage area, however.
One last concern I’ve personally witnessed and have heard others confirm is coverage holes. Perhaps the official launch means that most of the gaps have been plugged? I won’t be at the Las Vegas event, so I’ll rely on locals to tell me more in that regard. At this point, the service in Baltimore has been live for over six months. I asked back then if it will get better with age, so maybe it’s time for folks using the service there to check in. Are you still finding major variances in speed as you change location? Are the service gaps fewer and farther apart?