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Clearwire unveils largest WiMax test area

The test area for 4G WiMax is a 20-square-mile sandbox in Silicon Valley where developers can work and play with the mobile broadband network.

Clearwire Communications has created a sandbox more than 20 square miles in size where developers can play with WiMax.

Clearwire announced on Tuesday the launch of the largest test area yet for its 4G WiMax service in Silicon Valley. Covering a wide area from Santa Clara to Mountain View to parts of Palo Alto, the company's Clear 4G WiMAX Innovation Network will let developers test the mobile broadband network on a large scale.

First announced in April by Clearwire, the Clear 4G WiMAX Innovation Network is seen as a testbed to prepare for the launch of commercial WiMax service in the San Francisco Bay area next year.

The 20-square-mile service will hit the campuses of Intel and Google, two investors of Clearwire's 4G WiMax network who've already begun their own own internal 4G testing. Cisco Systems, which will provide equipment to Clearwire, will get coverage in a few months as the network grows.

To play in the new WiMax sandbox, developers must register with Clearwire's development program and describe the WiMax ideas they'd like to pursue. Developers would also need to buy a Clearwire WiMAX USB modem for $49.99. Clearwire says it will provide the service for free to a limited number of qualified developers prior to the commercial launch.

Clearwater will also join and help sponsor the Sprint Open Developer Conference running October 26 to 28 in Santa Clara. The company encourages developers working with Clear 4G WiMax to attend the conference to learn more about the service.

Clearwire touts its Clear 4G WiMax service as offering peak download speeds of up to 10 Mbps, with an average of 3 Mpbs to 6 Mbps. As a comparison, the company says that today's 3G networks can only reach speeds of about 600 kbps to 1.4 Mbps.

WiMax has faced tough competition from LTE for the battle to become the wireless 4G standard. Backed by AT&T and Verizon Wireless, LTE is sometimes forecast as the ultimate victor with potentially the more dominant share of the market. But WiMax is also expected to grow as deployments ramp up.