Clearwire isn’t Even Halfway to its 4G Coverage Goals

Clearwire's Mike Sievert

Clearwire (s clwr) today said it now provides its 4G WiMAX service to five new cities, which brings its total mobile broadband coverage to 49 markets and 51 million people. That’s great, except that it is August and the carrier is only 43 percent of the way to its goal of covering 120 million people before the end of the year–a goal that means a considerable amount with Verizon’s (s vz) planned Long Term Evolution (LTE) network coming online soon.

Clearwire is racing to add coverage and win customers before Verizon unveils out LTE network in the fourth quarter of this year covering 100 million people. The rumor mill has determined that Verizon will unveil the network in November.

Clearwire said it now covers Jacksonville, Fla; Wilmington, Del.; Stockton and Modesto, Calif. and Grand Rapids, Mich. One reason Clearwire’s coverage may be lagging is because it plans to roll out some larger metropolitan areas before the end of the year. San Francisco would be a good place to focus in order to get the technology community excited about the service and thinking about awesome apps it could build to take advantage of the network, and it would give Clearwire a coverage boost.

Even if Clearwire trips over its ambitious coverage plans, it may not be down for long. Clearwire likely has two big advantages over Verizon or AT&T’s future LTE networks — pricing and spectrum. The carrier has deep spectrum resources, which means it can carry a lot of traffic without overburdening its network. Those spectrum resources also enable it to set pricing for its network that may end up lower than the prices that Verizon will set, and are lower than those AT&T (s T) has introduced with its new data plans. And if Clearwire does eventually switch to LTE, as anticipated, then pricing and spectrum could help it win out.

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