The consumer electronics retailer on Thursday announced a wholesale deal in which Best Buy would offer Clearwire's WiMax service through the retailer's recently announced Connect service. Best Buy plans to start offering the service in 2011, but didn't provide a specific date.
Best Buy launched Connect to provide "one-stop shopping" for electronics, wireless service, billing and customer support. But the number of cities the retailer will be able to offer Clearwire's high-speed service will depend on how fast it can be rolled out in U.S. cities.
The company's 4G service is currently available in 36 cities and is expected to add 24 more by the end of the year. The additional cities include New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Boston, Denver and Miami.
Clearwire investors include Sprint Nextel, Comcast and Time Warner Cable, which also have wholesale agreements with the wireless service provider. Best Buy is the first such partner that isn't also an investor.
Best Buy currently sells through Connect cellular laptop cards that run on Sprint Nextel's 3G wireless network. However, the cards carry the Best Buy brand.
How Best Buy will offer the Clearwire service was not disclosed, but the latter company last month introduced three 4G modems. The Clear Spot 4G is a WiMax-only personal mobile hotspot, while the Clear Spot 4G+ can access both the 4G network and the EVDO 3G network. The third modem, the Clear 4G+ Mobile USB Series S is a 4G/3G laptop dongle that supports Macs and Windows PCs.
Clearwire says its usage plans do not require long-term service contracts. Unlimited 4G coverage starts at $30 in most markets for residential service and unlimited mobile plans start at $40.