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Comcast takes broadband to the (Wi)Max

Cable-branded Clearwire comes to Portland, Oregon

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Comcast has launched its WiMAX offering, taking advantage of its investment in Clearwire to extend wireless connectivity to existing customers for $50 a month for the first year.

The service, branded "High-Speed 2go Metro", is being sold as an addition to Comcast's broadband service with a combined (promotional) cost of $50 a month. Another $20 a month replaces Metro with Nationwide and gets you access to Sprint's 3G network when you're outside Portland - customers who just want WiMAX will be able to get it for about $30 a month.

After the first year WiMAX becomes a $30 addition to the $43 cost of cable broadband, though Comcast will chuck in a free WiMAX dongle to anyone who signs up for two years.

While only available in Portland today, the service is scheduled to arrive in Atlanta, Chicago and Philadelphia by the end of the year, with Comcast claiming it will have 80 US markets covered by the end of next year.

Certainly the cable-TV provider will be hoping to sell a lot of WiMAX connections - not only is this Comcast's only hope of competing with the mobile phone companies, but it's also the last hope for WiMAX as LTE looms large and even WiMAX's biggest fan, Intel, signs pacts with the opposition (though it's worth remembering that LTE was specifically excluded from that pact, which only covers Nokia's 3G properties).

Comcast is making great play of the "4G" moniker that the WiMAX lobby has managed to acquire, despite the fact that the best Clearwire will be offering 4Mb/sec. That's well within the realm of 3G GSM standards such as HSDPA, and a pittance compared to the 100Mb/sec LTE will be boasting (note the use of the term "boasting" rather than "achieving", but it's boasts that matter in this business).

But if you live in Portland, and fancy taking your laptop on the road to try out WiMAX before it disappears as yet another well-intentioned-but-outmanoeuvred technology, then Comcast can deliver today. ®

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