The promise of high-quality video delivery to mobile devices continues to crystallize as Clearwire is officially launching its 4G service with Motorola in the Atlanta metro area today. It's the third official market launch (after Baltimore and Portland, OR), though Las Vegas was quietly kicked off a couple weeks ago. The company is calling Atlanta, with almost 3 million people spread over 1,200 square miles, "the largest Internet hot spot in the U.S." Clearwire still plans to roll out 80 U.S. markets reaching 120 million people by end of 2010.
The company's CLEAR WiMax service aims to deliver download speeds in the 4-6 Mbps range, bursting up to 15 Mbps. That range would put CLEAR on a par with broadband speeds most Americans receive now from their cable companies. Recall that Clearwire, started by the wireless entrepreneur Craig McCaw, is now backed by 3 of the largest cable operators, Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks, along with other investors Intel, Google and Sprint.
Of course there are lots of applications that benefit from high-speed mobile delivery, but video is right at the top of the list. This was the context for last month's alliance announcement between Cisco and Clearwire, whereby Cisco would become the primary IP network infrastructure provider and also build 4G devices. Cisco has made no secret of the fact that IP-delivered video is the key growth driver for the company in the coming years. Its recent research projects that almost 64% of the world's mobile data traffic will be video by 2013, based on an annual growth rate of 150% for the next 5 years.
The proliferation of inexpensive smartphones, led by the iPhone, is creating a massive need for robust mobile broadband infrastructure that Clearwire and others are rushing to provide. Mobile video consumption will lag fixed broadband usage for some time to come, but all the elements are falling into place for it to grow rapidly.
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Categories: Mobile Video