Clearwire (s clwr) today announced that it expects to rollout WiMAX service in three major U.S. cities prior to year-end, opening up the service to a combined population of more than 13 million people. Service for New York City is planned for Nov 1, while Los Angeles follows on Dec. 1 and San Francisco later that month. The 4G service will immediately compete with Verizon’s LTE (s vz) mobile broadband network, slated to appear in the same three major cities, and 35 additional ones, before the close of 2010.
The lighting up this trio of urban areas is happening at an interesting time for Clearwire, and not solely because of the competition the company will face from Verizon. Recent analyst reports estimate that Clearwire needs at least $2 billion in additional funds to continue its national 4G network rollout in 2011.
To that end, the company last month reportedly considered investments from T-Mobile, which is currently improving its 3G network with faster, HSPA+ speeds, but has not yet committed to a 4G strategy. And just last week, Bloomberg said that Clearwire was mulling the sale of some spectrum to raise between $2.5 and $5 billion, giving credence to our thought that the company can give up some spectrum to “self-fund” its long-term plans.
Regardless of next year’s potential financial crunch for the WiMAX providers, consumers — in particular, those in New York City and San Francisco — are poised to be the short-term winners. Data networks in both areas have struggled to keep pace with increasing demand from smartphones such as Apple’s iPhone, although services have improved due to infrastructure investments from AT&T (s t).
With the option of unlimited 4G service plans soon arriving from Clearwire and LTE services from Verizon, consumers at both ends of the U.S. can opt for fast data devices, even prepaid ones, that will help ease the crunch for mobile broadband.
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