Unclear for now

This is an update to my earlier A Clear Choice?, where I embarked on a courageous voyage of discovery through the world of WiMax.

So it’s been several weeks now since I cancelled my Clear service and returned the modem within the 14 day money-back evaluation period. Happily I can report that Clear was true to its word and not only refunded what I paid for service, but also for the modem. They even provided free shipping (shipping to me originally was also free).

Let me be perfectly clear: the overall experience was actually pretty good. Except for one brief outtage and the final precipitous drop in signal quality, I found Clear’s service to be more than adequate for the needs of the average household. Even with two teens connecting to separate online services and Netflix being accessed on the downstairs media client no one seemed to notice the difference between the wireless service and cable.

It really was only their inability to resolve the signal issue that led me to finally decide to call an early end to my trial (my original plan was to give them at least a month, during which I’d keep detailed records of performance).

I never got any explanation for why my signal dropped off a cliff (holding steady at 1 bar after having been a solid 4 bars for most of the 10 days of my testing). As requested by Clear’s customer support I did try repositioning the device, but this had no effect. Neither did their attempts to force the modem to reacquire the nearest tower. Weather was clear during the whole test, which was conducted well into Spring with foliage already in full bloom (weather related events, especially heavy rain, are known to sometimes dramatically effect wireless signal strength).

The bottom line is that I can’t recommend Clear’s service as a dependable alternative to cable or telco fibre. Even DSL would probably be more reliable. For people without access to any high speed wired service it would be the means of last resort (anything is better than dial-up and I’m not impressed with what I’ve seen of satellite solutions). Commercial WiMax is still not quite there yet, as far as I can tell.

Hopefully technology improvements that are supposed to be rolled out over the next year will change things for the better. There are a lot of people, including many in government, who are banking on wireless broadband to connect areas that don’t have wired service. In the meantime I’m back on the cable for the foreseeable future.