Review: Trying Clear from Clearwire - Mobile Broadband Service
As a remote worker, I really need decent internet when I'm not in my home office. Sometimes I'll be at the local coffee shop, but more and more restaurants with Wi-Fi are kicking folks out who are leaching their bandwidth. I probably, in aggregate, waste an hour or two a month hunting for Wi-Fi.
Clear Wireless - The Good
One of the newest entries into the mobile wireless internet business in the US is ClearWire from clear.com. It's a WiMAX technology and it's got extremely limited coverage at this point. However, it covers where I am 90% of the time:
You can go an put your address in, of course. For the Portland/Metro area it's pretty good on paper:
Clear just started a new promotion where you get 1/2 your service for the first 6 months. That means about US$22.50 a month for unlimited mobile wireless.
They call it "4G WiMAX" and the package I got included:
- 3-6mb/s download, 1mb/s upload. I got over 6 in my tests around Portland. It does drop off some inside buildings.
- I paid $49 for a USB modem
- They have a 2 year contract, but I reject contracts and instead opted for a month-to-month. I paid $35 for the privilege.
So, $100 out of pocket, but $22.50 a month for the next several months. If it's awesome, I'll pay $45 a month. If not, I'll cancel.
Some folks might immediately ask these questions. Here's my best answers.
Q. Why not just tether your phone?
A. AT&T's 3G network is not only crappy, but they are threatening to cap their most leachy users. That will no doubt affect me. Most 3G phones max out their bandwidth at about 3.6mb/s depending on radio. Others can do 7.2mb/s, but seriously,when have you EVER seen that kind of sustained throughput on your 3G phone?
Q. Is it faster than 3G?
A. So far it feels faster. I was totally able to hold a two way 640x480 audio/video conference with screensharing and with no lag. I just don't see that happening over a tethered phone connection.
Q. But really, the coverage is non-existent.
A. True, and it bothers me, but I realize that I really *am* in the NW 90% of the time and my hope is that this will open up more places for me to work around the region. I'm tired of hunting for a connection, and as this was a near daily irritation, for the price of $22.50 a month (for the first few months) I've removed that irritation. This seems a reasonable trade-off so far.
Q. What about caps?
A. So, I know that most 3G providers with "unlimited" bandwidth cap at 5gigs. I could barely sync my email with 5 gig. ;) I could use that in a few days of video calls, so I really need more like 30-40 gigs a month...so, I prefer the comfort of an "unlimited" package. It remains to be seen if Clear really means unlimited when they say it, but I certainly don't think they mean 5gigs a month.
Q. Their site seems amateurish.
A. Agreed. Something doesn't "smell" right about ClearWire, and it's likely the lack of good design on their website. Their previous one was WAY better. It's amazing how these kinds of things can really color your impressions of a company. As a company precense, they just don't seem "polished." Their Services Overview page is unnecessarily complex
There is no formal support for Windows 7 and their "highly trained support professionals" have no idea what they're talking about.
The installation drivers the Clear-branded Motorola USB WiMax Beweem model that the service came with totally didn't know what to do with Windows 7 x64. Additionally, the online August 2009 drivers for Vista failed to install. What I ended up doing was opening Device Manager in Windows and doing a manual "Update Drivers" and pointing it to the drivers folder on the October 2008 CD that the device came with. So, basically, old drivers and new software. They promised it'll work someday with Windows 7. Maybe it will, but until then, I'm MacGyver.
Too soon to tell. Is it a great idea? Sure. Wireless that works over miles? I'm all over it. However, they've got Comcast, Verizon, Sprint, AT&T and everyone else to compete with. If AT&T really gets their tethering act together and starts really pushing it, that could be a problem for Clear. We will see. Until now, I'm going to give it a go.
Dear Reader, post your ClearWire experiences in the comments! I'll update this post as mine observations change.
Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.
- The unit she had installed was supposed to have a built-in wifi router. It didn't work, the replacement didn't either, and they wouldn't/couldn't figure out why, so she ended up having to buy a standalone wifi router.
- Her download speeds were about 5KB/second. That's right - Kilobytes. Since she was coming from dial-up, she didn't know how it should've been like.
- After I discovered all this and educated her on how things should really work, she tried resolving the issues with their customer service, but they wouldn't/couldn't fix the problem, and they refused to let her out of her contract.
I found out that in her area, there's a plethora of customer complaints, and I'm surprised the company still has a presence there at all. The local business bureau recommended that people contact the Attorney General's office in the company's home state (I think that was somewhere on the West coast - these incidents happened in Minnesota).
So, if you have a good experience, great. But if you don't, please don't hesitate to use your powers of communication to let others know.
Sprint uses Clear's 4G network.
Have you had any latency problems with games, skype, video chat, etc?
Wow, that's messed up...I'm sorry to hear about that with your Mom. How did she get hooked up on Clear? I would definitely say that they are trained to sell the systems and as soon as I hit a technical problem I was basically talking to myself. I wonder if your Mom was dealing with Clear or with a "Clear Reseller" - which can be *anyone.*
Comcast tech said it was due to 'slow internet'. Funny nobody else is having these problems.
P.S. I must not be smart enough to use the OpenID login. Every time I try it sends me off to login then I come back but none of my information is entered?
$22.50 a month for 6Mb/s? Bye bye comcast and your ridiculous introductory/package/special offers. I feel like, with comcast, I have to call them once a year and talk them down from the ridiculous fee they want to charge me. Thanks for the info Scott. I don't care what anyone else says about you, you're alright.
I had to get mine to RSSI -54 and CINR 14 before I could get reliable VOIP and network.
I've also replaced the modem as well and that didn't change things. I personally think the issue has to do with local bandwidth resources, but I don't know enough about this technology or wireless communication to assume that's the problem.
We bought our service as a package. If the phone wouldn't work we wanted to cancel the whole package. Clear was not cooperative and we ended up filing an Attorney Generals Consumer Complaint. All we want is for Clear to accept the return of the hardware that we purchased for a service that does not work. Today I received Clear's reply to our AG complaint and they decline to refund the purchase price of the hardware. I actually had a customer service rep at Clear suggest that I simply list the equipment on CraigsList.
Aside from the numerous blogs, articles, and news reports blasting Clear, a Class Action law suit has been filed against Clear in the state of Washington. No doubt other states will follow since Clear appears to have no intentions to remedy their service issues or to properly reimburse consumers when their service does not work.
To top it all off, they will not let you cancel service without a penalty unless they have documented proof of problems. Sorry, but I have better things to do than to wait on hold for over an hour for a tech. I have waited for over 2 hours once. Apparently they were trying to help all of the other people in my areas with issues.
As an IT independent consultant, I will tell everyone I know to not consider any type of service with Clear. Thanks for allowing me the pleasure of paying $100.00 as a cancellation for horrible service.
I'm sure there will be a class action lawsuit in their future.
Glad to hear your experience has been good. Maybe I can give it another go when I move to a new place.
Then the giggling children in the return warehouse every time I tried to get a return lable, "Mr. Williams.." or "Mr. Hypes..." anything save for the name or correct email address I clearly spelled in the online form requesting product and corrected these great CS reps on a more than once. (and no, apparently the tech in the clear 4g truck could not take back the equipment.) One minute to determine that I was lied to and then four weeks to get a confirmation for a return packing slip after three calls. Still no refund.
This service is not to be recommended to the worst enemy. Prepare yourself for nightmares if you say yes to it.
Also, be aware that if you use clear, wind, rain, and any nearby electronics seem to cause big problems. Knowing what I know now, I would not choose it again.
As far as customer service goes, I've had about 50/50 good/bad experiences so far.
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