Comcast has selected Portland, Oregon as its first cable WiMAX market. Comcast will use Clearwire’s WiMAX network to private label its own portable broadband product. “We are very interested in being able to offer a wireless component to our products,” Comcast COO Steve Burke tells the Oregorian newspaper. Comcast led the cable investment in Clearwire, investing $1 billion of its own. They hope to leverage WiMAX as a mobile broadband tool to better compete with their wireless armed telecom competitors. The service is scheduled to launch ‘around mid-year’ 2009.
Early indications of wireless offerings are encouraging. Cablevision appears to be having good success with their New York metro WiFi product, Optimum WiFi. Cablevision provides the wireless broadband service as a free value add for their wired cable broadband subscribers. It appears to be working, at least if you believe the Dell’Oro Group who recently attributed Optimum WiFi to helping Cablevision “… nearly double net subscriber additions in the fourth quarter.” Comcast would like a little of that action and WiMAX may just deliver. It will be interesting to see how Comcast markets its WiMAX service. Will they follow a ‘Cablevision strategy’ of offering it as an inexpensive or free value add to existing broadband customers – maybe only wideband customers? Portland will be an interesting market to watch as Comcast may have their first legitimate weapon to counter telecom’s historical 3G wireless advantage. For now, the battle will be for portable broadband services like net access for laptops and netbooks. The future availability of WiMAX enabled devices will determine how far beyond that it goes. Stay tuned.