Comcast Corp. will become the first major cable TV operator to roll out wireless broadband outside of Wi-Fi hotspots as it launches the service in Portland, Ore., on Tuesday, with at least three other cities to follow this year.
Comcast will offer speeds of up to 4 Megabits per second, faster than any other comparable, non-Wi-Fi service currently being marketed. The service is for use with laptops, but not other mobile devices.
Comcast's wireless broadband, which lets users surf the Web on the go with their computers, pits it squarely against the mobile data offerings of phone companies.
But the cable operator is coming out first with the market's fastest wireless broadband, using WiMax technology. Phone companies have lined up behind a competing technology called LTE, with Verizon Communications Inc. planning to deploy it next year.
Comcast, which is the nation's largest cable operator, plans to offer the wireless service in Philadelphia, Atlanta, Chicago and other cities later this year.
The service will be carried over the 4G network of Clearwire Corp. where it's offered. Clearwire, a joint venture involving Comcast, other cable operators and technology companies, is currently in Portland and Atlanta, with plans to deploy in Las Vegas, Chicago, Charlotte, N.C., Dallas-Forth Worth, Texas, Honolulu, Philadelphia and Seattle this year.
Elsewhere, the service will use Sprint Nextel Corp.'s 3G network.
Consumers can sign up with either a plan that lets them surf wirelessly within a city using Clearwire's network, or nationally switching between 4G and Sprint's 3G network.
Comcast, along with Intel Corp., Time Warner Cable Inc., Google Inc. and Bright House Networks, have hitched their wireless Internet aspirations on WiMax. Together, they invested $3.2 billion in Clearwire last year for a one-fourth stake. Sprint owns a 51 percent stake.
Comcast High-Speed 2go Metro service over Clearwire's network is on promotion for $49.95 a month for a year, including Comcast's wired Internet home service and a Wi-Fi router. The regular price is $72.95 a month. The national version, using Sprint, costs $20 a month more.