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Clearwire scores funding, adds Wi-Fi modem

Clearwire will issue $1.1 billion in debt to help fund the company's 4G build. It also announced a new 4G/W-Fi modem.

Marguerite Reardon Former senior reporter
Marguerite Reardon started as a CNET News reporter in 2004, covering cellphone services, broadband, citywide Wi-Fi, the Net neutrality debate and the consolidation of the phone companies.
Marguerite Reardon
3 min read

As competition in the 4G wireless market heats up, Clearwire has finalized a deal to create more funding so it can continue building its nationwide 4G wireless network.

It also has released a new product.

The company said today it plans to sell more than $1.1 billion in a debt offering. The company has spent months negotiating and looking for ways to inject more money into the business. The company said last month that without new funding it might not be able to continue building its nationwide WiMax 4G wireless network.

Clearwire is majority owned by Sprint Nextel, the nation's third largest wireless provider. Cable giants Comcast and Time Warner Cable also own stakes in the company, as do Google and Intel.

The Clear modem with Wi-Fi Clearwire

Clearwire had also considered other avenues of funding, such as a bigger investment from Sprint. It was even talking with rival T-Mobile USA about an investment in the company. Clearwire executives had also said the company was considering selling some of its spectrum.

So far, the company has not said whether these options have been taken off the table with the new round of debt issued. But analysts believe the company will still need more money in the coming years to continue building its network. How much? Some analysts estimate the company will need another $3 billion in the next couple of years to continue building its WiMax network.

Clearwire said recently that it now covers 103 million people around the U.S. in 68 markets. The service is already available in cities such as Washington, D.C., New York, and Seattle.

The news of additional funding comes as Verizon Wireless announced the launch of its 4G wireless network. Starting Sunday, Verizon will begin offering its next-generation wireless service in 38 markets across the country. Verizon is currently the largest wireless operator in the U.S., and its service will be available to 110 million potential customers on day one, the company has said.

Clearwire claims its network offers download speeds between 3Mbps and 6Mbps, while Verizon, which uses a competing technology called LTE, claims average download speeds between 6Mbps and 12 Mbps. Clearwire's choice of technology could become a problem for the company, although executives say the company is also open to adopting other technologies, such as LTE.

With most of the world's carriers using LTE, there will likely be fewer WiMax-enabled devices on the market. To combat this problem, Clearwire has embraced Wi-Fi, a widely adopted technology that is finding its way into everything from smartphones to printers.

In an effort to make its service more flexible and more appealing to consumers, Clearwire has been announcing products that incorporate Wi-Fi technology. Today, it released the Clear Modem with Wi-Fi. The device enables people to get the Clear WiMax service to their home and then connect laptops, tablets, iPods, smartphones, and whatever Wi-Fi enabled devices they have to the Clear broadband network.

The Clear Modem with Wi-Fi supports 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi capable devices and supports Windows XP SP2, Windows Vista 32/64, Windows 7 32/64 and Mac OS8 or higher. The modem costs $120 or can be leased for $7 a month. Monthly data service starts at $35.