Several days from now (May 1st) CLEAR will begin a huge advertising campaign in the Houston area. The city will be “covered” in the bright green (their company color) and CLEAR logo. Electronics retailers, like Best Buy and Micro Center, will have displays and sales people demonstrating the CLEAR 4G high-speed internet service and answering questions. Some of your friends, family and co-workers will sign up and begin using the product. The entire city will be exposed to CLEAR in some way and some of us will take the next logical step, research.
If you are anything like me, your research will encompass several resources and a large dose of skepticism. After all, when something sounds this good, there must be a catch. What are they not telling us about the product? With this article, I hope to provide you with something that you will not get anywhere else, a personal look at the product and the service here in the Houston, TX area.
The Pitch and the Product
I was first approached about CLEAR long before the service was available here. A representative found my web site (JumpstartMyPC.com) and asked to meet with me about an exciting opportunity. Over some coffee, he began to tell me about CLEAR, and their WiMax offering, that was coming here to my town. Home internet service, mobile internet service and home phone for one low price. Service without wires. Service that would cover almost the entire city of Houston, including 1,900 square miles and more than 4 million people. My first thoughts were “this sounds awesome, but what is the catch?” I have been burned by so many “great deals” before and this one did sound “too good to be true.”
The Skeptic in Me
Over the next month, I researched CLEAR’s 4G offering online, looking at the other cities that already had service and what the user’s had to say. I began to develop a checklist of challenges that this new service would have to beat if I was going to be on board fully. Here is that list, along with the reality I was met with after signing up for CLEAR and testing it for the first 3 weeks:
Speed – First, and most importantly, I needed speed. A long-time Comcast/Roadrunner cable modem user like me needs pure, raw speed for downloads, movie streaming, music, gaming, etc. I didn’t want to sacrifice speed for savings, no matter how good the money was. As a CLEAR representative said to me “if someone offered you free internet service, but you had to go back to dial-up, would you do it?” NO!
REALITY: WOW! I have been blown away by the speed that CLEAR has to offer. At home, I’ve gotten as high as 13Mb per second downloads. That is blazing fast! On-the-go I have gotten over 10Mb per second. I’ve tested the service in the car, in the bar, at the doctor’s office, in the parking lot…. I’ve tested it while riding in the HOV lane, down 290 at 70 miles per hour. It just works and it works almost everywhere in Houston.
Ease of Use – While it probably wouldn’t be difficult for me to make a change, how would it affect my family? I mean, could we still use WiFi in the house? Would everyone be able to get onto the internet without extra software and passwords? I didn’t want to jump through any extra hoops.
REALITY: The only trick to setting things up at home was finding the right place for the home modem. Since it picks up the WiMax signal over the air, from a tower, I just had to figure out which way to point it. After placing the modem in the front room, I was able to pick up on the signal from the closest tower (which is actually .75 miles away from the house). Other than that, it works exactly the same as the high-speed service I was getting from Comcast. No one notices the difference.
Gaming – I am a gamer. I love my XBOX and the ability to play online against people all over the world. I heard that you couldn’t get onto XBOX Live with this new service. If that’s true I would have to keep my Comcast service while using CLEAR and that would mean a higher monthly bill. I really can’t afford that right now.
REALITY: Even though I thought it would be horrible, I decided to give it a try. Holy Cow! It works. I jumped right onto Modern Warfare 2 and began running, shooting and communicating just like before. The only difference is a slower ping time (latency) that Live seemed to compensate for. XBOX simply matched me up with players of a similar connection and we were off to the races.
Replacing Other Services – In order for me to get the most out of this service (CLEAR) and save the most money, I would need to be able to cancel Comcast internet service and my home phone. The 2 together cost me over $85 a month and I don’t even use the home phone. CLEAR’s Pick3 plan would be lower than that and includes a USB modem for use on-the-go.
REALITY: Gaming, check! High speeds, check! I still needed to check my home phone service. After connecting the Voice Adapter (a $15 device) I connected the base unit for my home phone. Presto! The home phone and all of the additional hand sets in the house worked immediately. I made a few calls and had no problems with connecting or sound quality. I could hear them and they could hear me.
After 3 weeks and countless hours of testing, I was almost convinced that CLEAR was the way to go. Then, I started thinking about the extras. These were things that I couldn’t do before. Things I only dreamed of before. Honestly, the geek in me is still jumping around like a little kid on a sugar high.
- Mobile – I can get almost the exact sames speeds on-the-go with the USB modem. Friday afternoon, I worked for 2 hours at the bar. Nothing like Stella while you work.
- Travel – Sure, I can get high-speed anywhere in Houston, but I can also take my modem to other cities. There are already 28 cities in the US with CLEAR and plans for many more to come. Texas has more coverage than any other state in the country, which is perfect for me. UPDATE: As of 1/1/2011 I have traveled to 3 other U.S. cities and used my CLEAR USB with out any issues or additional costs.
- Phone Number – I have already started the process of “porting” my home phone number over to my new VOIP service. In a few days, my old home number will work without my old home service. Bye, bye telephone company. UPDATE: Shortly after this article was posted, my home phone (via CLEAR) activated and I have been using it since. Other than a slightly “hollow” sound on calls, there is no difference in quality of service.
- Multiple Connections - Sure, I can hook up a router and get WiFi at home, but I can also use the home modem and the USB modem at the same time. That’s like having 2 high-speed internet connections in the same house at the same time. Nobody will be slowing down my connection by using the internet in another part of the house.
- The Future – Electronics companies are lining up to produce devices that use WiMax technology (cars, gaming devices, computers, etc.) and as the technology is adopted in more cities and devices it will just get better and better. I am already happy with my service and we have just gotten started. What’s next?
If you have any questions or concerns about CLEAR internet service in Houston, or any U.S. city for that matter, don’t hesitate to leave a comment below. I’ll be happy to answer questions and help you make a decision about switching to CLEAR.