WiMax carrier Clearwire has added a low-cost prepaid mobile operator, Locus Telecommunications, to the set of partners that offer services over its high-speed broadband network.
Locus is a national mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) that already resells mobile services using the two major cellular technologies, GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) and CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access). It sells bundles of minutes on so-called "pay as you go" plans, which typically are designed for consumers with lower incomes or credit ratings. Locus has more than 300,000 prepaid wireless customers and sells cell phones and services, as well as calling cards, in more than 70,000 locations, according to a press release from the companies.
The Locus WiMax service is scheduled to go on sale to consumers later this year, the companies announced on Thursday. They did not disclose what kinds of WiMax devices Locus will offer. Like other Clearwire WiMax services, it is expected to offer between 3M bps (bits per second) and 6M bps downstream, with bursts over 10M bps. The Clearwire network is available in 71 cities around the U.S. where approximately 120 million people live, according to Clearwire
Clearwire sells WiMax under its own brand, Clear, for stationary and mobile wireless modems and portable hotspots, but doesn't sell any handsets. Its offerings include plans in which subscribers pay on a month-to-month basis. Sprint Nextel, the majority owner of Clearwire, includes the WiMax service on 4G phones, portable hotspots and other devices. Sprint's prepaid brands, Boost Mobile and Virgin Mobile, don't sell WiMax. Clearwire-based service is also sold by cable operators such as Comcast, by national electronics retailer Best Buy, and by small-business services company Cbeyond.
New wholesale customers are just what Clearwire needs as it looks to further expansion and possible upgrades to its network. The company made significant cuts last year to conserve cash, and its current buildout plan stretches only to reaching 130 million people later this year. It faces growing competition from rival LTE (Long-Term Evolution) services offered by Verizon Wireless and planned by AT&T, both of which have much greater resources to expand further. Clearwire has tested LTE (Long-Term Evolution) itself but hasn't disclosed plans to adopt it.