Samsung Brings Clearwire WiMAX Beyond the Dongle

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Finally, commercial 4G in the United States is moving beyond the laptop dongle, thanks to Samsung Telecommunications America. Samsung has announced the WiMAX-enabled Mondi mobile Internet device for the Clearwire Corp. network, initially launching in the Dallas/Ft. Worth market. It will also run on Clearwire’s Baltimore and Philadelphia networks.

The solid-black Mondi is more mobile than a netbook, fitting into a pocket and sporting a 4.3-inch touch screen. It also has a slide-out QWERTY keyboard and Wi-Fi, and comes with multimedia features that offer instant access to e-mail, Internet, video content and business applications. The device also supports various services natively, including Fring, Gypsii, Windows Live Messenger and GPS navigation through Route 66, providing turn-by-turn directions. The Mondi is also customizable, thanks to a set of widgets that can be dragged and dropped anywhere on the display screen.

To date USB cards or dongles for bridging Wi-Fi devices to the network have been the primary method of accessing WiMAX, which is true mobile broadband running at speeds roughly double that of 3G. Nokia had been in the market with its N810 Internet Tablet WiMAX Edition, but announced in January 2009 that it was ceasing production, sparking concerns about whether device-makers would take the plunge to offer complex personal devices and form factors for an unproven, nascent market.

Quite a lot has happened since Nokia seemingly lost its confidence, with Sprint-Nextel, Time Warner and Comcast Corp. all launching WiMAX MVNOs on the Clearwire network, and with Clearwire itself rolling out in several new markets nationwide. And, it’s attracted more funding from Sprint to continue to do so.

It also makes sense that Samsung would be willing to wade into the waters; the manufacturer already has plenty of experience in making WiMAX handheld devices for the WiMAX-based WiBro network back in its home country of South Korea.

It’s also encouraging that a consumer electronics company like Samsung is supporting WiMAX here. Such devices are the beginning of what some WiMAX proponents see as a fully connected world of mobile broadband, with WiMAX built into everything from cell phones to televisions to washing machines. A consumer electronics ecosystem of unlocked devices that consumers can buy off the shelf at places like Best Buy, (just like Wi-Fi devices today), is the ultimate end goal, to drive ever more demand and usage of the mobile broadband technology.

For now, the Samsung Mondi is available at Clearwire retail stores, select Best Buy locations, authorized distributors and at www.samsung.com. It will also be sold through Time Warner Cable in the upcoming months, and will soon be compatible with major WiMAX markets throughout the United States, including Washington D.C. and Boston.

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