Time Warner Cable to join WiMax fray

The operator will sell Clearwire service under its own brand in four markets this year

Time Warner Cable will begin reselling WiMax mobile broadband from Clearwire in four U.S. markets, including Dallas and Charlotte, North Carolina, by the end of this year.

Time Warner is the latest cable operator to reveal plans for reselling the Clearwire service under its own brand. Three cable operators invested in the WiMax venture last year.

One of them, Comcast, has already begun offering the service in Portland, Oregon, and plans to add Atlanta, Chicago and Philadelphia by year's end.

Today's Clearwire was formed last year through a merger of Sprint Nextel's WiMax business and Clearwire, which already provided proprietary wireless broadband in many cities.

Time Warner, Comcast and Bright House Networks joined Intel and Google in a US$3.2 billion investment that helped start the venture. U.S. cable operators want a wireless service in order to compete with the "quad-play" offerings -- voice, data, video and mobile -- created by large telecommunications operators such as AT&T and Verizon.

Time Warner confirmed the WiMax plans on Thursday but would not disclose pricing, nor the other two cities that will get the service this year. The company offers services in New York state, North and South Carolina, Ohio, Texas and Southern California.

Its WiMax offering will carry the Time Warner brand and complement its wireline offering of TV, high-speed data and VoIP (voice over Internet Protocol). The company has about 14 million consumer and business subscribers.

Clearwire offers commercial WiMax service in Portland, Oregon; Atlanta; and Las Vegas, as well as Baltimore, where the network was built by Sprint and service still carries Sprint's Xohm brand.

It plans to go live later this year in Dallas-Fort Worth and Charlotte, as well as in Chicago, Philadelphia, Seattle and Honolulu.

By the end of 2010, the company plans to cover 80 markets, including New York; Washington, D.C.; Houston; Boston; and San Francisco.

WiMax is a 4G (fourth-generation) wireless data service that delivers about 3Mb per second (Mbps) to 6Mbps, with bursts as high as 10Mbps, according to Clearwire. That company sells home service plans starting at $20 and mobile plans starting at $30.

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