Clearwire keeps unlimited data plans as cable looks for quad-play opportunity

Perhaps looking for a competitive niche among the morass of data service providers, in the wake of AT&T's Wednesday announcement that it would cap its data plans for wireless subscribers, Clearwire was quick to announce that it will keep offering its unlimited data plans.

The AT&T announcement has many analysts aflurry with speculation that other major providers like Verizon Wireless and Vodafone will soon move away from unlimited data offerings as well.

Clearwire may be better positioned than any other provider to capitalize on the data crunch. Its early moves into 4G, first installing WiMAX networks in select cities beginning in 2008 and continuing to add mobile broadband subscribers at a good clip, place it well ahead of other companies moving to 4G.

So, why does Clearwire's move matter to cable? For one thing, traditional cable operators can't wait to get into the mobile space and offer a quad-play service to their customers. Fiber providers including AT&T and Verizon are already skipping well ahead of cable in this area.

For another, cable operators well know that their established fixed-line networks can be used to augment a mobile broadband offering through VoIP-over-WiFi--if they can pull themselves together enough to implement the service. Time Warner Cable in April announced it was exploring the possibility of launching a VoIP service over Clearwire's WiMAX network.

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