My WiMAX test fails miserably

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Over this past weekend, I was attending a work-related convention in Las Vegas, which just so happens to be one of the cities offering WiMAX service from Clear (formerly Clearwire). Since I normally visit Sin City a few times a year, I had purchased a used Nokia N810 WiMAX Edition a few months back so I could test the new wireless service there. My thinking was that I could purchase a one-day pass for the listed price of $10, then have the convenience of 4G broadband while I was wandering about trying to find the best place to lose my money.

Even though this is Vegas we're talking about, let me just say it was a good thing I didn't gamble on smooth WiMAX connectivity. What I found was far different than what I expected, and I was so glad my Sprint MiFi came along on the trip.

From the very beginning, the signal was extremely spotty within my hotel room, which was on the north end of the Strip. If I stood right next to the window and aimed the N810 towards the south, I could maybe get a good signal and connection, but more often than not I would get a connection error.

When I could get online, I was surprised that I was able to access websites for free without being directed to a web portal. Well, it sort of worked for free. I could load Google without a problem, but when I visited Speedtest.net to try and gauge the 4G speed, it would never start the test and would just sit there doing nothing. If I then closed the browser and tried to visit another site, then the Clear web portal popped up.

I decided to take the N810 with me as I rode the Monorail south on the Strip, towards MGM Grand, but I could not get a good connection until I got close to the Harrah's/Caesars Palace Monorail station, which is about in the middle of the Strip. Those of you familiar with Las Vegas will know exactly what I am talking about location-wise.

Once I locked onto a good connection there, I decided to get out and have a seat while I got the Clear service configured for my device. Below are some of the web portal screens that guide you through the purchase of a Clear day pass:

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Once I got beyond these screens, I ran into a huge problem. As you can see, there is a drop-down menu to select the type of WiMAX device to be used and the city. The first option is for a USB modem, while the next one is for a WiMAX-equipped laptop. The last option is for the Samsung Mondi, which I included as a screenshot just to show the Mondi owners here on the site.

You'll notice there is not an option for the Nokia N810 WiMAX Edition, so I went ahead and selected the laptop option, which took me to another page so I could fill in my personal and billing information. All of this went perfectly until I reached the bottom of the page and tried to submit my order, as you'll see below.

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The gray "Continue" button you see above would not work! Using the stock browser on the N810, I could not click that button because it was not detected as a link. Thinking maybe there was a compatibility problem, I went back through the process and selected the Mondi as my device but ended up with the same result.

As a last resort, I installed the excellent WebKit-based Tear web browser, hoping maybe I would fare better with that. Apparently, Tear has a problem with secure http addresses because I couldn't get the Clear web portal to load at all.

So, I finally gave up after trying to get connected over the course of two days, disappointed that such a problem could go undetected by Clear. Surely I am not the first person to try and connect an N810 to their network, but regardless of this, Clear missed out on the $20 or $30 they would have made off of my usage this past weekend.

I can only hope that the experience is better when Clear service goes live here in San Antonio in the next few months or so.

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Chris King

Chris King is a former contributing editor at Pocketables.

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