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Clearwire 4G launches in Houston

Clearwire and its partner, Sprint Nextel, will begin offering 4G wireless broadband service in Houston.

Houston is the latest city to get Clearwire's 4G WiMax service, the company announced Monday.

Both Clearwire and its partner, Sprint Nextel, will be offering 4G wireless service in Houston. Clearwire, which is backed by Sprint, cable giants Comcast and Time Warner Cable, as well as Intel and Google, has been building its nationwide 4G wireless network for over a year. Houston marks the 28th city to get the service. Most of the markets that already have 4G WiMax are in Texas along with some major cities, such as Las Vegas, Atlanta, and Baltimore.

Previously, Clearwire had announced it would launch the service later this year in several other cities, including New York, Boston, and Washington D.C. Last week, it expanded that list with several other cities: Los Angeles, Miami, St. Louis, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, and Salt Lake City. By the end of 2010, Clearwire expects to be able to provide service to 120 potential customers.

Sprint will also be offering 4G service in each of these markets when they are launched, including service for its upcoming 4G wireless phone, the HTC Evo announced at CTIA in Las Vegas last week. Comcast and Time Warner will also be reselling the service in regions where Clearwire offers its network and where each of these companies offers cable service.

Clearwire CEO Bill Morrow told BusinessWeek last week in an interview at the CTIA trade show that other companies have approached Clearwire about investing in the company. He mentioned that he had several meetings with these potential partners at CTIA.

He didn't name who these new investors might be, but Morrow said the companies that have approached Clearwire are interested in reselling the service in exchange for their investment.

Clearwire raised more than $1.5 billion last year. Sprint Nextel, which owns a majority stake in Clearwire, led the investment. This money is in addition to the more than $3 billion that was initially invested in the company by Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Google, and Intel. As part of this initial deal, Sprint also provided wireless spectrum assets.

Clearwire and any company reselling its service are hoping to get a head start in the 4G wireless broadband market. Verizon Wireless, the nation's largest wireless provider, is building its 4G network. It expects to launch its service, which uses a competing technology called LTE or Long Term Evolution, later this year.

AT&T, the second largest wireless operator in the country, is planning to test 4G technology using LTE later this year, but it will not begin commercial deployments until 2011.

Clearwire's service can be used both as a broadband replacement to compete against cable and DSL services, or it can be used as a mobile service.

Clearwire's home Internet service plans start at $30 per month, and its mobile service starts at $40 per month. For a limited time, customers in Houston can take advantage of Clear's online-only mobile Internet promotion with plans starting at $15 per month for the first two months after a $50 service credit and a two-year service agreement, the company said.

Customers who want a service that also provides 3G service when 4G is not available, Clearwire offers a hybrid service that costs $55 per month. Clearwire uses Sprint's 3G network based on EV-DO for this service.

Occasional users can get day passes for the 4G service for $10.