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Satellite Firms Add Wi-MAX Service

New York — Wireless broadband service provider Clearwire said Thursday it has reached deals with DirecTV and EchoStar to deliver Wi-MAX broadband Internet access to subscribers of the respective satellite TV services beginning this later this year .

Under the plan, DirecTV and EchoStar’s DISH Network would be able to provide wireless broadband service to targeted satellite TV subscribers — typically those who live in more rural areas that are underserved by cable or DSL providers, as well as to other subscribers that would rather not deal with their local cable or telephone companies.

For its part, Clearwire will be able to offer satellite TV services to its Wi-MAX customers. It is the first deal of its kind for Clearwire, which offers wireless broadband service in 39 markets passing about 9.9 million people.

The satellite providers have struggled with various means of delivering broadband service to subscribers to compete with bundled services from cable and some telephone companies. Both providers have also partnered with telephone companies, which have bundled satellite services with their voice and Internet services in areas that lack fiber lines to support their own television service ventures.

Each company signed a distribution deal with satellite broadband provider WildBlue last year to give TV subscribers alternative broadband access options. WildBlue is partly owned by Liberty Media, which is expected to take a controlling stake in DirecTV by the end of the year.

Clearwire plans to expand into the Southeast using unused 2.5GHz wireless spectrum recently acquired from AT&T. The company is the second-largest holder of 2.5GHz spectrum in the United States. Clearwire and Sprint are the only 2.5GHz license-holders capable of providing nationwide Wi-MAX service in that spectrum.

Clearwire’s Wi-MAX service offers comparable speed to lower-bandwidth DSL services, but at a slightly higher price. The company offers a 768Kbps/256Kbps value tier for $29.99 per month and a 1.5Mbps/256Kbps tier for $36.99 per month.