Best Buy Offering 4G Mobile Broadband

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MINNEAPOLIS —

Best Buy has begun reselling Clearwire’s 4G Mobile WiMAX data service, and has entered into an agreement with LightSquared to offer that company’s planned 4G LTE voice and data service sometime next year.

Both services will be marketed under the retailer’s own Best Buy Connect wireless broadband services brand.

The Clearwater deal, first announced in July, will enable the retailer to offer wireless-broadband service on 23 computing models from Asus, Dell, Hewlett-Packard, Samsung, Sony and Toshiba at most of its stores. Best Buy will also provide service activation, billing and connection support.

The service will initially be priced at $45 per month for unlimited 4G service with a monthto- month or two-year contract. Best Buy will waive the $35 activation fee for customers who purchase the two-year contract, and will provide an additional $150 off select hardware devices.

In contrast, the LightSquared agreement would bring voice service to the retailer’s portfolio of Best Buy Connect wireless services, which was launched last July with the rollout of Sprint’s 3G wireless broadband-data service.

Best Buy is targeting first-quarter 2012 trials, said LightSquared chairman/CEO Sanjiv Ahuja, who announced the deal during a keynote speech at last month’s CTIA convention in Orlando.

Under the current Best Buy Connect program, the chain acts as an MVNO, billing consumers, providing customer support, and selling mobile computing devices embedded with wireless modems at subsidized prices with wireless activation.

“We’re finding that customers increasingly want choice in service providers for mobile broadband,” said Best Buy Connect VP Jed Stillman. He described the company’s mobile offering as “an end-to-end option that gives them the freedom to connect virtually, whenever or wherever, and the convenience of one point of contact — Best Buy — for selection and service.”

LightSquared, which also announced a roaming agreement with Leap Wireless at CTIA, plans to build a terrestrial wholesaleonly LTE voice and data network that will reach at least 100 million Americans by the end of 2012. The company will also wholesale satellite-based LTE service, which in some cases will be integrated into phones and devices that also offer terrestrial LTE service.

During his keynote, Ahuja predicted that LightSquared’s wholesale business model would be profoundly disruptive to the wireless industry’s vertical model, wherein carriers own networks and content, control distribution channels and handset purchasing, and compete with their own retailer partners.

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