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Is Clearwire right for you?
Clearwire (clear.com) advertises "Super Fast Mobile Internet" on their website. Is that true? The answer depends as much on your intended usage as on your location in relation to their towers. It also depends on whether or not their 4G service is available in your area or if 3G is the only option available.
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Deciding Factors in choosing Clearwire
Clearwire's Internet Services might be great for you, or they might be downright awful. Lets look at some factors that you'll need to consider before you enter a service contract.
- 3G or 4G?
- How many users on the network?
- Do you watch streaming TV/Movies? (ie. Youtube, Netflix, Hulu)
- How do people in your local area like it?
First, you need to look to see if 4G is available in your area. 4G networks, according to Clear.com, offer "average speeds of 3 to 6 Mbps and bursts over 10 Mbps." 3G speeds are limited to 2 Mbps, which is considerably slower. Go to http://www.clear.com/coverage to see what is available in your area.
Next, how many people are in your home or office? If it is one or two, even three people, and you are not streaming media of any sort (Internet radio, TV/Movies) then even 3G will likely be sufficient for you. If the Internet usage in your office is steady or slightly more intense, 3G will not be enough. Make sure your area has 4G before you sign up.
Do you watch streaming TV/Movies (ie. Youtube, Netflix, Hulu)? If so, the 3G coverage will not be enough. Even 4G might not be enough. Do you play online games, or even Facebook games such as Farmville or any of the other "ville" games? 3G will not work well.
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More things to consider
Wireless Internet services of any sort, including Clearwire, have a higher latency time for any Internet requests. Simply put, that means that any connection to the Internet, and any responses you get, take longer to establish. Imagine making a phone call that requires that you wait 2-3 seconds between sentences. You can speak normally, but you have to wait 2-3 seconds before the other person can respond.
Second, wireless technology is prone to be less reliable under foul weather circumstances. I can personally attest to this, as my own Clearwire modem would show less bars (an indication of signal quality) when there was snow, rain, or other precipitation.
Another item: Your home. If you have bad mobile phone reception in your area, chances are that you won't receive a good Clearwire connection either.
Clearwire often sells their product on the promise that even though they have only 3G coverage in your area, 4G is "coming soon." Beware! Their sales associates, in store or via phone or Internet, do not have access to the upgrade schedules. Any such promises are ill founded.
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The suggestions outlined on Clearwire's website are generally good and will help you receive a good signal. One thing they do not bring up is the construction methods used in your home. If you have metal siding, stucco, live in a mobile/modular home, or have metal within your walls or roof, reception will be reduced significantly. For those cases, you'll need to locate the Clearwire modem immediately next to a window, as glass does not block radio signals. This may affect your decision in selecting wireless internet service. Placing the modem correctly can be frustrating and inconvenient.
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A Personal Review
If all you need is a basic service so that you can check your e-mail, social websites, and other online news or informational websites, then Clearwire will most likely be fine for you. If you intend to use Clearwire for business purposes, this author recommends going with a hard wired solution such as cable or DSL. Check with your local providers to see what is available, and weigh your options carefully.
Our household tried out Clearwire Internet Services for 1 year. Our coverage was limited to 3G, and it was not sufficient for our household. Our streaming TV/Movies were interrupted if more than one person (the one watching Hulu, etc) was using the internet. Netflix, Hulu and other providers were unable to provide their services through our connection. They were constantly buffering, causing many interruptions in the streaming shows that we like to watch.
Clearwire customer service via Internet chat and telephone was very good, but many times ill informed or plainly wrong in their assessments. Some local problems with service in our neighborhood took about eight weeks to resolve, causing poor service at that time. We cancelled our service and went with a DSL provider with faster speeds and are much happier.
That being said, many people in our local area use Clearwire and are perfectly satisfied. These are typically ones whose internet usage is limited to checking email, Facebook, etc.
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Before choosing Clearwire or any other Internet service, check with your neighbors, friends, and local computer professionals. This is by far the best way to find out which services are most reliable in your area. Make sure that the speeds you are offered are sufficient for your usage as outlined in this article. Lastly, determine whether wireless (with its inherit deficiences as noted above) is for you.