WiMax, Take Two

Back in February of 2009, I attempted and failed to sign up for Xohm, Sprint’s WiMax service. My overall experience led me to believe that the service wasn’t quite ready to be launched — coverage in Baltimore wasn’t all that widespread, and the Mac support was entirely given over to their developer network, in a lame attempt to get other people to do the work they should have done before launching. I returned the modem I’d bought, griped about the experience online, and soon thereafter Xohm disappeared from view.

It turns out that a company called Clearwire had bought Xohm from Sprint, and they stopped taking new subscribers while they did things like expanding the network and making sure the software and hardware was compatible with the Mac OS. How sensible. They also eliminated the need to install any software on your computer in order to use the service (Xohm required some crazy widget/app thing, for no apparent reason). The pricing for the service, now called Clear, is still smack in my price range ($30 or $40) for basic home service. It’s a little more for a subscription that works with a USB modem that you can take with you anywhere, and you can also bundle voice with any of the plans. One especially nice touch is that you have a choice of a two-year contract and leasing the modem, or a month-to-month contract for which you buy the modem outright. I went with the latter, because if I’m going to wind up paying for the modem anyway, I might as well do it up front and not have to deal with a contract.

Yesterday, I went down to Little Shop of Hardware to pick up a modem. I had a bit of a weird experience there — there was Clear swag everywhere, including on the staff, one of whom was in a Clear shirt, drinking out of a Clear water bottle that was smooshed into a Clear koozie. But neither of the two staff who were there had been trained on the sales system. I was asked to come back later in the week and when my response was that I would just get it online if they couldn’t set me up, the guy in the Clear shirt started looking around and found the info he needed. Once the process was underway it only took a few minutes to get me set up. I think the most complicated thing he had to do was find the security code on my AmEx.

Once I got home, I was up and running pretty quickly, despite a brief bobble where I couldn’t get past the initial “hey thanks for signing up” Clear splash screen. Today I set it up with an old wireless-G router, and I’m typing this while crashed out on the futon trying not to move too much because it is approximately 500,000 degrees today.

Anyway, so far I am quite pleased. I opted for the slower speed/lower cost plan, which has been fine so far. Downloads are on the slow side, but that’s not surprising. I’m going to see how things go and then just upgrade to the other plan if I think I’ll make a big difference.

Anyway, if you are looking around for a new Internet service and Clear is in your city, I definitely recommend checking it out.

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