With 5,000 people moving here each month, somebody had to spill the beans!

WiMax in Las Vegas: Taking a Test Drive of "Clear"

clear-wimax-logo As many who read our blog/listen to our show know, my company (PodWorx) is an Internet Broadcasting company that specializes in podcasts and live streaming video productions.  It’s the live streaming video component of the PodWorx business model that got me initially interested in Clear, a WiMax-based "a high speed mobile Internet service provider for your home or business".

My interest came from the fact that when doing remote streaming video (that is, outside of our studio), I couldn’t always be sure the customer would have an Internet connection fast enough for us to use with our Tricaster.  I had heard about Clear from another live streaming video company, but at the time, it was only available in Portland, Oregon.

That was the bad news.  The good news is, on July 21st Clear became available in Las Vegas.

I was offered the opportunity to test drive the Clear WiMax USB Modem solution for 30 days.  Here’s what I learned/discovered/found out (in about two days):

Installation

I installed the Clear USB Modem on my Asus Eee PC 1000HA netbook.  Since it doesn’t have a CD drive, I downloaded and installed the drivers from the Clear website.  The software installation went well from what I could tell (no error messages), but once it was done, it didn’t instruct me to install the USB modem.  A little dashboard appeared in the lower right corner of my desktop, but that was it.  Not knowing what else to do, I plugged in the USB modem.

After about a minute of hard drive access, I was told the USB device was installed but there may be a problem.  Nonetheless, I clicked a little “Connect” link on the dashboard to see what would happen.

After about two or three clicks, the USB Modem was eventually discovered and I was connected to the Clear network.

At the House

I noticed after connecting that the little Clear dashboard has a horizontal line of ten-dots that indicator signal strength.  When inside my house (around Aliante area), I only had one dot.

While still in my house, I tried doing a download/upload speed test, but was unable to consistently connect to any website.  Figuring the problem might be related to the USB device warning I received during the installation, I rebooted the netbook.  Things got better after that.

While in the house, neither the Clear connection or my Verizon Broadband connection (on a different laptop) did a very good job.  I did some website surfing, and was not terribly impressed with either.  For example, when watching the embedded video on the Living in Las Vegas Podcast home page, the Clear Connection paused 10 times in the first 30 seconds of the video, each pause taking around 10 seconds (making it unwatchable).  The Verizon wasn’t much better (four pauses in first 30 seconds).  However, when I took the Clear/Netbook out to my backyard, things got much better.  The first 30 seconds of the video played with no pauses whatsoever. 

I also did a Skype video test with a friend in California (while still in my backyard). The Clear/WiMax provided a pretty good connection. Audio was good, and the video went from very good to just OK. During the connection, the 10-dot meter would fluctuate from 3-4 to 7-8. At 7-8, the Skype video immediately improved, according to my CA friend.

Speed Tests

I was really interested in some download/upload speed comparisons.  Here’s what I saw (using SpeakEasy.net as the testing website, selecting the Los Angeles Server):

In Aliante area:

Verizon Broadband (3 tests):

Download Speed: 826 kbps (103.3 KB/sec transfer rate)
Upload Speed: 99 kbps (12.4 KB/sec transfer rate)

Download Speed: 611 kbps (76.4 KB/sec transfer rate)
Upload Speed: 100 kbps (12.5 KB/sec transfer rate)

Download Speed: 514 kbps (64.3 KB/sec transfer rate)
Upload Speed: 99 kbps (12.4 KB/sec transfer rate)

 

Clear WiMax (3 tests):

Download Speed: 4175 kbps (521.9 KB/sec transfer rate)
Upload Speed: 431 kbps (53.9 KB/sec transfer rate)

Download Speed: 4806 kbps (600.8 KB/sec transfer rate)
Upload Speed: 330 kbps (41.3 KB/sec transfer rate)

Download Speed: 4151 kbps (518.9 KB/sec transfer rate)
Upload Speed: 398 kbps (49.8 KB/sec transfer rate)

 

Clear’s advertising claims 4x faster than mobile Internet from cell-phone providers.  Looks like they’re right.  Actually, it’s better depending on location:

Clear WiMax (3 tests): Tested at Flamingo and 215

New York Server (via SpeakEasy.net):
Download Speed: 5234 kbps (654.3 KB/sec transfer rate)
Upload Speed: 483 kbps (60.4 KB/sec transfer rate)

Seattle Server:
Download Speed: 6887 kbps (860.9 KB/sec transfer rate)
Upload Speed: 442 kbps (55.3 KB/sec transfer rate)

Los Angeles Server:
Download Speed: 6158 kbps (769.8 KB/sec transfer rate)
Upload Speed: 349 kbps (43.6 KB/sec transfer rate)

 

Driving Test

I thought it would be fun to see how the Clear/WiMax rig would work while driving around town.  So, I did two tests:

  1. Watch an embedded video on a website, then watch a live streaming video from Ustream.tv
  2. Streaming LIVE video to Ustream.tv

Watch an Embedded Video on a Website

Before taking off West-bound on Ann toward the 215 (from about Simmons Ave.), I loaded the latest QBS LIVE MONDAYS video (qbsresearch.com).  It’s an embedded Flash video of about 30 minutes, being hosted by blip.tv.  Once I got on the road, I started the video. . .and it played perfectly.  The Clear/WiMax signal was strong most of the way.  There was one drop out (“Lost Network Connection”), but the video had already loaded completely in cache so it never stopped.

Wanting to prevent a video from being cached, I loaded a Ustream.tv live stream and played it from Ann/215 south to Flamingo/215.  During the drive, I had three drop outs:

  • Ann/215
  • Summerlin Parkway/215
  • Charleston/215

The Clear/WiMax connection was able to reconnect without any intervention by me.  When I was getting a video stream from Ustream.tv, it worked well.  There were a couple start/stops but I don’t know if that was due to my connection or due to the host’s transmission.

Streaming LIVE video to Ustream.tv

Starting at about Flamingo and 215, I fired up a Ustream.tv stream to see if I could create a live video stream all the way back to Aliante.  During the drive (which was a leisurely 45 minute drive), I recorded the video via Ustream so I could review upon my arrival at the studio.

In review, I found I had six complete drop outs. . .where I lost my Internet connection.  A couple on Flamingo, a couple on Rainbow, one on 95/Craig, one on Ann/Aviary, and a final one that I was unable to recover from on Aviary, slightly north of Ann.  This automatically created six different videos (which was pretty neat).  Most of the way, I saw 10/10 signal strength. 

Here’s the first of the videos recorded. . .during the start of the big Clear/WiMax test:


As you’ll see, the frame rate isn’t terribly impressive.  The sound was consistent (a little distorted, but that was my fault).  For a free stream, I believe it would be fine.  If I was charging for the stream, not so much.

Conclusion

As a potential solution from my need to create a Tricaster-worthy upload stream (we normally stream at 448kps), the Clear/WiMax solution is close. . .but a little too close for comfort.  However, if you’re looking for a fast wireless connection throughout what appears to be most of the Las Vegas Valley, the Clear/WiMax solution is pretty spiffy.

Unlimited mobile plans starting at $40/month.


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Comments

14 Responses to “WiMax in Las Vegas: Taking a Test Drive of "Clear"”

  1. WiMax in Las Vegas: Taking a Test Drive of "Clear" – Las Vegas … » NetbookBlog
    September 11th, 2009 11:48 am

    […] in Las Vegas: Taking a Test Drive of "Clear" – Las Vegas … Source: Las Vegas Podcast – Living in Las Vegas – Friday, 11th September 2009, 14:48 GMT However, when I took the Clear/Netbook out to my […]

  2. Cheryl
    September 11th, 2009 12:22 pm

    Are you comparing apples to apples if the Verizon test was done on a different laptop? Regardless, this is interesting and valuable information for anyone in the market for mobile internet. Now they just need to make a waterproof laptop so that you can work while enjoying your hot tub.

  3. ScottW
    September 11th, 2009 1:26 pm

    @cheryl: I don’t think there are any worries about the different laptops. The results were in line with what is expected by Verizon.

    I asked about the waterproof laptop. . .nothing yet. Guess I’ll have to get out of the hot tub and check email on the way to the blended margaritas!

  4. Michael Gossett
    September 11th, 2009 8:20 pm

    I have some reviews myself on my blog:

    http://www.michaelgossett.me/index.php/tag/clear/

    You may wish to check it out if you did get the service, they aren’t retroactively upgrading customers to the new speeds. They offer unlimited down 1 up now. Unlimited is around 10mbit near Fry’s area.

  5. Ted Newkirk
    September 11th, 2009 8:24 pm

    Thanks for the info. I’ve been giving Clear some significant thought and am looking to find out what I can.

    For a fringe area test, it sounded like it performed pretty well. (Let’s face it… you almost need a 4×4 to get any farther west than some of your test area)! So… given adequate performance on the edges of town, that sounds pretty impressive.

    Be eager to hear how it performs downtown, The Strip/Town Square, or maybe how far into Henderson (or even Boulder City). Imagine doing a live video webcast from Mon Ami Gabi or top of The Strat. Or a live tour of First Friday.

    Sounds like it has some amazing possibilities if the connection is even stronger toward the core of the valley… let us know when you know.

  6. Posts about Mobile Internet as of September 12, 2009 | IMHO Conferences & Consulting
    September 12th, 2009 11:52 am

    […] bad bo y for a while now but I just don’t have the extra cash right now. Then yesterday Mr. WiMax in Las Vegas: Taking a Test Drive of “Clear” – livinginlv.com 09/11/2009 As many who read our blog/listen to our show know, my company ( PodWorx […]

  7. Rick Goulding
    October 6th, 2009 1:36 pm

    Glad to find the posts…I should look out for a driver watching videos when I am riding my bicyle in my new neighborhood–near Lone Mountain/Simmons! 😉

    I am interested in using CLEAR for a home network installation, using a “stationary” device rather than the USB dongle. My home network’s WiFi router would be sharing the connection through my house.

    It all sounds great, but…I have some pretty geeky tendencies…

    I use a VoIP service (very similar to Vonage)…anyone have any CLEAR experience with a VoIP service?

    Also, I connect back to my home office desktop/servers using Terminal Services and/or Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP). Is anyone accessing their home PC remotely using CLEAR?

    Upload speeds close to 1MB sound good, if the signal is reliable, and there is no latency between the send/receive signals (as in a sattelite connection).

    Thanks for taking time to post and reply!

    Rick

  8. ScottW
    October 6th, 2009 2:28 pm

    @Rick I think my SKYPE experience w/ Clear would be a good comparison w/ your VOIP needs. Worked well for me.

    Regarding RDP, I’ve done so on some pretty crappy WiFi (hotel lobby, for example). My guess is it’ll be palatable as well.

  9. Rick Goulding
    October 6th, 2009 4:00 pm

    Thanks for the feedback, ScottW…just circling around before I take the plunge.

    After reading some of the linked blogs, I’m a little gun-shy right now…

    …if I have enough lead time, I may be able to setup a “test” scenario and keep my current provider in place for awhile, since I simply cannot be down.

    I appreciate your help.

    Rick

  10. Jason
    October 26th, 2009 12:39 pm

    About 3 weeks ago clear started blocking our sip voip. Plus it was working fine with clear until about a month after signup. Then without making ANY changes on our end we could no longer send or receive calls. I’m sure it’s clear because it works perfectly with embarq dsl using the same exact adapter and settings. Somebody else I know had to cancel clear and go back to cox because his calls started breaking up a few days ago. My guess is that Clear is “blocking” voip packets because I tried using different ports. I asked one of their support people about it and they could neither confirm nor deny it.

  11. ItBebroke
    January 2nd, 2010 3:54 pm

    I was an early user (pre-public launch) of Clear in Las Vegas. It worked swimmingly until a few months ago when they claimed that they ‘upgraded” their towers. Since then I get ping times above 600ms and downloads vary between over 1mb/s to as low as .15kb/s. Support says to “wait it out.” I wish there was an alternative vendor… (and not sprint, same network unfortunately).

  12. ScottW
    January 5th, 2010 2:37 pm

    Jason/ItBe: Hmm, that’s not good news to be sure. I wish I still had the review hardware. . .I’d be sure to re-test and see if the same problem is happening here as well.

  13. Kevin
    February 8th, 2010 9:38 pm

    I’m afraid of using them considering the contract commitment, and especially if they are blocking VOIP data.

    I was thinking for getting rid of Cox and switching to something like Clear, but I don’t think they are ready for people like me yet.

  14. ScottW
    February 9th, 2010 6:40 am

    @Kevin what’s the contract commitment?

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