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Clearwire is Abandoning its Legacy Pre-WiMax Service



by Robert Herron
Sprint 4G Rollout Updates
Tuesday, November 22, 2011 - 1:38 PM MST


Although, it's not common knowledge for many folks out there, Clearwire runs two wireless broadband networks. The 4G WiMax network that is very familiar to Sprint 4G customers, and what's called Clearwire's Legacy Wireless Network. Both run on it's 2.5/2.6GHz spectrum.

Clearwire's Legacy network is based on a Pre-WiMax wireless broadband technology called "Expedience" that has performance similar to most 3G networks. It also suffers from the same propagation issues that the WiMax network does, given it's on the same frequency band.

When Clearwire first started to deploy WiMax in 2008, they started converting their Legacy Pre-WiMax communities first. Places like Portland, Boise, Modesto, many cities in Texas, etc. And this conversion process went pretty slow. By the time Sprint announced it's first 4G devices in the Spring of 2010, Sprint put heavy pressure on Clearwire to stop converting these tertiary markets and start concentrating on new deployments in Primary Markets (like Atlanta, Chicago, New York, etc.). And Clearwire stopped converting Legacy markets from Expedience to WiMax.

By the time Clearwire stopped converting their older wireless broadband networks to 4G WiMax, they were about 70% complete. However, this left a good handful of relatively large markets unconverted. Like Dayton Ohio, Reno Nevada and Anchorage Alaska. As well as many tertiary and rural communities. Many people in these communities thought it was only a matter of short time before they too could experience Clearwire's fast and better 4G WiMax.

However, another year passed, and by the summer of 2011, Sprint 4G Rollout Updates released a blacklist of communities that were not likely to get any 4G WiMax service in the near future. This list was comprised of legacy Clearwire communities that appeared to not be converted any time soon. Relegated to a forgotten limbo world without 4G.

But now, we are saddened to report, that it appears Clearwire is going to let these older generation legacy networks wither and die over time. Reports from local media are popping up in Legacy markets that Clearwire has announced that retail stores are closing and no new customers will be allowed on these older Legacy 3G networks. Customers are being warned that as long as their local networks do not experience any issues, they will be allowed to maintain their accounts and use their service. However, if they cancel their accounts or their accounts should lapse for any reason, they will not be able to re-open their accounts. Reports have been spotted in Anchorage Alaska, Lewiston Idaho and Duluth Minnesota.

This just marks a close in another chapter in Clearwire's wireless broadband service. There are millions of people in these communities who looked forward to eventual migration to 4G WiMax and maybe even to 4G LTE on Clearwire. But now, one by one these towers are likely to go dark. Never to broadcast again.

It seems that even if Clearwire should get the funding for a 4G LTE network as it is pinning it hopes on, it appears that Clearwire's new strategy will be to sell excess LTE capacity on a wholesale basis only in primary and some secondary communities. It appears to have abandoned the plan for a nationwide 4G network. At least, for any foreseeable future.

But the question still remains, how will the FCC see this? There are minimum service requirements in each BTA (Basic Trading Area) that Clearwire holds FCC spectrum licenses in. Will Clearwire be in default as it allows these tertiary and rural 2.5GHz towers to go dark? If the FCC says they are not meeting minimum service requirements, then per FCC Paragraph 27, the license holder will lose it's license without the ability to ever regain it. Ouch.


Here are a list of Clearwire Legacy Pre-Wimax markets affected:

  • Aberdeen/Hoquiam WA
  • Anchorage AK
  • Anderson CA
  • Bend OR
  • Carson City NV
  • Central Point OR
  • Chico CA
  • Chippewa Falls WI
  • Clarkston WA
  • Cohasset Beach/Wesport WA
  • Corning CA
  • Dayton OH
  • Duluth MN
  • Eagle River AK
  • Eau Claire WI
  • Fernley NV
  • Grants Pass OR
  • Hermantown MN
  • Klamath Falls OR
  • Incline Village NV
  • Jacksonville OR
  • Lewiston ID
  • Longview TX
  • Madras OR
  • Medford OR
  • Middletown OH
  • Minden/Gardnerville NV
  • Moscow ID
  • Myrtle Creek OR
  • Orland CA
  • Paradise CA
  • Prineville OR
  • Proctor MN
  • Pullman WA
  • Red Bluff CA
  • Redding CA
  • Redmond OR
  • Reno/Sparks NV
  • Roseburg OR
  • St. Cloud MN
  • Shasta Lake CA
  • Sisters OR
  • South Lake Tahoe CA
  • Springfield OH
  • Stateline/Kingsbury NV
  • Superior WI
  • Wenatchee WA

The above snippet is from a letter that was sent to a Clearwire Expedience customer in Anchorage, Alaska



Edited at 2:50 PM MST to better clarify that only Legacy Pre-WiMax will be affected. Not 4G WiMax service.

Edited at 3:40 PM MST to include letter that I received from a Clearwire customer that started my investigation for this article.



Recommended Comments

Ouch... I'm in chico the majority of the week. .. Awesome :-(



Is there a way to see which towers are theirs and which ones are sprints?


I don't see my home town in there which is about a half hour south of chico... I'm taking this as a GOOD thing.

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Ouch... I'm in chico the majority of the week. .. Awesome :-(Is there a way to see which towers are theirs and which ones are sprints? I don't see my home town in there which is about a half hour south of chico... I'm taking this as a GOOD thing.


This news article is from November last year. We are putting together something in the next month or so that will show all the Clearwire Expedience and WiMax Protection Site locations.


We already have in our Sponsor section of S4GRU maps that show every single Sprint site in the country. If you make a donation to help support S4GRU, you will get access to those maps.



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