4G Wireless Ready to Take On Broadband?

Woman holding cell phone
This article was written by Marguerite Reardon of CNET News.com.

The 4G revolution in wireless won't just make Web surfing on your mobile phone faster; it could help you say good-bye to traditional cable and DSL broadband.
Clearwire's 4G WiMax service, currently the only 4G wireless service on the market, offers average download speeds between 3Mbps and 6Mbps, which are comparable with many DSL and cable modem services on the market.

As a result, consumers in the 27 markets where Clearwire currently offers service now have another choice for their broadband service. And many are deciding to ditch cable and DSL for 4G wireless.

Tim Elliott, who lives in Atlanta, is one of those customers. Ten months ago when Clearwire came to town, Elliott, who had subscribed to an AT&T DSL package, canceled his service and signed up.

Elliott said he was convinced to subscribe to the service because he got a free Netbook as part of a promotion. He added that he plans to stick with Clearwire even after his contract expires because he likes the convenience of having broadband anywhere. Even though he could have gotten free Wi-Fi access to any AT&T hot spot as part of his old AT&T DSL subscription, Elliott said the ubiquity of WiMax makes the service more valuable to him.

"I love being able to go anywhere in town with my laptop and not worry about finding a hot spot," he said.

Elliott isn't the only subscriber who has decided to cancel his existing broadband service for Clearwire's 4G wireless service. In fact, Clearwire's chief commercial officer, Mike Sievert, said during the company's fourth-quarter 2009 earnings call last month that roughly half of the company's subscribers are using its new Clear brand 4G wireless broadband service as a replacement for DSL and cable modem services.

Sievert's comments are the first indication that 4G wireless could actually compete in the duopolistic broadband market. Wireless executives at this week's CTIA trade show in Las Vegas may downplay this fact as they tout new mobile devices for 4G. But as 4G wireless speeds continue to match speeds for traditional broadband, 4G wireless will serve as a viable replacement for some consumers who are not interested in subscribing to a costly triple-play package of TV, phone, and Internet services.

You can read the full story on CNET News.com.

By Marguerite Reardon