Clearwire’s foray into the prepaid mobile broadband market got its start today with the launch of Rover, the company’s new pay-as-you-go brand targeted at young urban subscribers.
The launch of Rover marks a major expansion of Clearwire’s prepaid services, which have gotten little traction under its main Clear brand.
Clearwire Chief Commercial Officer Mike Sievert said in a webcast that the Rover service targets 18-24 year olds who tend to favor no-contract prepaid plans over postpaid plans.
“Consumers in this segment have their own unique identity and expect different things,” Sievert said, referencing the brand’s prepaid pricing and lack of data caps. “They don’t want complexity, they don’t’ want commitments, they don’t’ want to be tied down.”
Rover will launch online and in Clearwire’s Houston- and St. Louis-area retail stores with two 4G-only devices, the $149.99 Puck mobile Wi-Fi hotspot and the $99 Rover Stick, USB dongle. The service will eventually be expanded to retail stores in all of Clearwire’s markets.
Neither the Puck nor the Stick can roam onto Sprint’s 3G network, but Rover general manager Seth Cummings said during the announcement that Clearwire was considering dual-mode devices. New users receive two free days of service to ensure Clearwire’s network coverage is sufficient.
The service is priced at $5 per day, $20 per week or $50 per month for unlimited 4G data, making it slightly more expensive than Virgin Mobile’s comparable $40 plan, which offers 3G speeds. The company does not have any current plans to roll out usage-based pricing.
Sievert hinted that Clearwire may open prepaid services to its wholesale customers, which include Sprint, Comcast and Time Warner Cable. “These things are linked in a certain way,” Sievert said. “When we do things on the retail side of our business it opens up wholesale opportunities for us.”
Dan Hays, head of the telecom practice at the PRTM consulting firm, saiys the Rover brand could prove appealing with subscribers outside of its core audience.
“Any of us that travel or don’t spend a ton of time at home would benefit from having a service that offered flexibility,” he says. “It’s an attractive possibility for a large segment of people.”