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March 6, 2021
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Business Review Western MI
Business Review Western MI
Wireless Internet Battle
(wgvu) -
Western Michigan is shaping up to be an early battleground for the
country's biggest contenders in the next generation of high-speed
wireless Internet service.

This is going to be the epic battle right here in west Michigan,
predicted Dan Carter, managing partner of West Michigan Wireless. I
think it's going to be great for us. It's going to be the Gettysburg.

Carter's company recently sold its licensed bandwidth to Clearwire Corp.
of Kirkland, Wash. (See related on page 4.)
Clearwire is building in Grand Rapids perhaps the first full municipal
wireless broadband network in the country using WiMAX technology. It is
also being courted by Ottawa County for a large deployment there, and
holds spectrum licenses to operate in Battle Creek, Kalamazoo and other
communities in the region.

But even the $600 million Clearwire [Nasdaq: CLWR] raised when it went
public in March won't last long at the current clip, analysts warn, and
it will quickly face competition from Sprint Nextel Corp.

Cell phone giant Sprint Nextel [NYSE: S] already has the towers and
other infrastructure to serve 53 million customers nationwide. Between
them, the two companies hold the lion's share of WiMAX spectrum licenses
covering western Michigan, Federal Communications Commission records

Our plan is to start deploying WiMAX coverage in the Grand Rapids area
in 2008, Sprint Nextel spokesman Mark Elliott said. It'll become
available first in key business areas and kind of expand outward from

That could mean bruising competition from the get-go. Or, suggested
technology consultant Michael Blair of Grand Rapids-based C/D/H,
Clearwire might be a good roaming partner for these guys, so they might
play nice.

WiMAX is more akin to cell phone technology than its better-known
wireless cousin, Wi-Fi. It promises better connectivity and capability
for bandwidth-intensive applications such as videoconferencing plus
true mobility. As a fixed service, it competes against cable modem and
telephone company digital subscriber line, or DSL, service.

Sprint Nextel is piloting WiMAX projects in Chicago and Washington,
D.C., this year.

Clearwire currently is working out WiMAX equipment locations in Grand
Rapids, leasing space where it can't mount antennas on city
infrastructure. It also agreed to set up public Wi-Fi hot spots.

Clearwire is obligated by its agreement with Grand Rapids to sell
network capacity to other providers at wholesale rates. Business rates
will range from $40 to $50 per month, it indicated in filings with the
city, and $30 to $40 for households.

It pledged a low-income rate of $9.99 monthly for up to five percent of
the city's residents.

They have assured us that by the end of the year they'll have something
up and running, city Chief Services Officer Gregory Sundstrom said.

If so, most businesses and consumers still won't have anything to connect.

Intel Corp. has invested heavily in the technology but only has started
to ship dual fixed/mobile modems. Industry analysts don't expect to see
WiMAX chips start to appear in consumer equipment such as laptops until
next year.

Intel recently pegged the cost of fixed WiMAX installations for some of
its own employees at between $500 and $800 each. But most analysts
believe costs will drop sharply once production and consumer adoption
ratchet up.
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