CLEAR mobile internet/home phone
August 26, 2010 3:03 AM   Subscribe

Does anyone have experience with CLEAR mobile internet/home internet/home phone? I am in Austin, TX, and am thinking about it.

What can you say about the internet speed? What about SECURITY as your surfing, etc. goes through the air? Their website just says "it's secure."
What about the phone sound and reliability?


posted by noonknight to Computers & Internet (13 answers total)
Before you waste a bunch of time doing research, make absolutely certain it's available where you live. Call them and ask.

Clear is advertised all over Chicago, but their home internet service is not available in my new apartment. (Which is in Chicago.)

So check first.
posted by phunniemee at 5:40 AM on August 26, 2010

I looked into Clear in Seattle, and ended up deciding against it: people didn't seem particularly happy with their services around here, and it appears that Austin customers aren't either.
posted by halogen at 6:00 AM on August 26, 2010

On their plan comparison page they claim a 6Mbps connection will allow you to download a 200MB file in less than a minute. ISP speed claims are normally horribly inflated and inaccurate but that the math there is just wrong. 6Mbps = .75MBps, 200MB / .75MBps = 266 seconds. That is ignoring packet overhead, which will slow things down even further, and of course your real world connection is unlikely to be close to perfect. Blatant lies in advertising are always a detraction.

If they weren't owned (majority share) by Spring I would think it was 100% scam, similar to the other cellular ISP resellers that have cropped up and failed in the past few years.
posted by ChrisHartley at 6:05 AM on August 26, 2010

I have had it in the suburbs of Chicago for a couple months and it's been very good so far. We have home Internet hooked up to an Airport router, with wired lines coming back into our tv and xbox. We stream netflix and hulu to our tv, and typically it is fast enough to keep up. It seems to average around 4 Mbps, but can get up in the 7s. Phone calls are only minimally VOIPy, and our number ported over seamlessly. The only speed downside is that you need to put your modem somewhere without many obstructions. Our old cable modem was tucked away in a drawer; our clear modem decorates a bookshelf with a view of the window.

You have 14 days to try it and return it if you don't like the speed. You may need to order it directly from them if you want that but it was reassuring for me.

One thing I didn't like was the order process. It was an order-by-chat, and I worked out a deal to do a month-to-month contract with no startup fee. Then when they processed me through it was a 2 year contract. The salesperson told me it just showed up that way but I needn't worry about it. It took two calls to them, and the people were skeptical (they claimed you could either buy monthly with startup fee or annually without, but that you couldn't get monthly with no fee), but I got it worked out. So be careful at that step and insist on that deal.
posted by AgentRocket at 6:23 AM on August 26, 2010

I'm told that realistic speeds are closer to 2-4 Mbps, which in my area, is still better than what Comcast can manage at most hours of the day.
posted by schmod at 6:37 AM on August 26, 2010

Meh. I'm using it right now. IF you get a good 4G signal, surfing the internet is pretty okay, but download/upload speeds aren't so good. It's $40/month here in Philly...we've just switched to cable internet because it's not significantly more expensive and faster.

The little modem is pretty cool, though...if you're looking to be able to be online on your laptop in all sorts of places, it might be worth it for you.

FWIW, here are my results. 2.69 Mb/s download, .16 Mb/s upload.
posted by nosila at 6:46 AM on August 26, 2010

Clear is advertised all over Chicago, but their home internet service is not available in my new apartment.

You're lucky. I got 1Mbps, tops, on a 6Mbps connection with all five signal-strength indicators lit two blocks from the tower on the fourth floor, even after spending many, many hours over the course of weeks on the phone with their performance support people. (The best part of this was the Limbaugh-esque customer service rep who explained to me how dearly Clear wanted to fix this issue but that its hands were tied due to unspecified "government regulation.") On top of the overall throughput issues, the crappy latency made SSH pretty unusable. The fuckers swore up and down I could cancel with no penalties when I signed up, but I ended up spending hours on the phone to get them to accept a return of their shitty hardware at all and they still dinged me $40 for a restocking fee. They also continued to charge me for service for a while after I canceled. Stay far away.
posted by enn at 8:43 AM on August 26, 2010

I don't have any experience with Clear, but am also in Austin and would dearly love to cancel Time Warner. Unfortunately, AT&T says they can't service my apartment (not sure why, but thats another story), so I looked into Clear.

I decided Clear wouldn't be a good choice for me as I didn't think they could provide enough bandwidth for my needs. I play online games, stream movies, and occasionally FTP large files. I also work from home, and would rarely use the mobile hotspots. If you're more of a "just e-mail and web browsing" type, or need internet on the go, Clear might be a better fit for you. Otherwise, for the same price you can get much faster (and probably reliable) service.

If you find a good alternative to TWC, I'd like to hear it.

Also, I wouldn't be very concerned with security. Assuming they're using some basic encryption, getting any kind of personal information would require intercepting the signal, then decrypting it. While WiFi (802.11) signals are not difficult to intercept, and decryption can be done with enough effort, intercepting cellular wireless is much more difficult. The equipment to do so is expensive, and not widely commercially available. If you're an international secret spy, someone might be able to get your information. If you're ordering shoes online with a credit card, you probably don't need to worry.
posted by fontophilic at 9:12 AM on August 26, 2010

Data point: I live in Austin, and a friend of mine uses that Clear mobile internet USB thing. It fucking sucks. Sometimes, it works great, no problem. Other times, it just can't find a signal for longer than (I am not kidding here) 5 seconds. (And it's not just location: sometimes the exact same location will produce drastically different results.)The other day, I was at my friend's place, and all I wanted to do was respond to someone's comment on my Facebook page. I had to type in like 5 characters at a time, and then wait while it disconnected and then reconnected with a weak signal. It took maybe 20 minutes to type a few sentences.
posted by 23skidoo at 9:12 AM on August 26, 2010

I've used their home internet service in Seattle for the last two years and I am pretty happy with it. The speed is not as high as cable or DSL, but it's slightly cheaper (at least for me, since I don't qualify for any of the bundle discounts from the phone and cable companies). I got about 6 Mbps download speed last time I tried a speed test. The one time there was an outage, their customer service was quick to respond and helpful.

I haven't tried their VOIP phone service or their mobile internet service.

Clear uses the WiMAX cellular standard. Like other such standards, WiMAX has encryption built in. The data sent over the air is protected in the same ways as the voice and internet data for your mobile phone. No security is invulnerable (some older cellular encryption schemes have already been defeated, and more will be defeated in the future), but as far as I know there are no exploits in the wild against WiMAX encryption.
posted by mbrubeck at 11:24 AM on August 26, 2010

I live in Austin and as many have commented, the speed is fairly variable. My boyfriend has it and reception is terrible in in his apartment. He rarely gets full bars on his modem's indicator. However, it works beautifully in my apartment. I borrowed his equipment for a week while waiting for Time Warner to transfer my service from the old apartment to the new. This is the full modem/router setup, not the USB receiver. Pretty handy IMO.

I've heard from a Clear representative they've received more demand than anticipated leading to slowdowns in some areas. They're working on improving their service. Maybe ask for a trial and see how service is in your area? I feel the ability to have internet anywhere is a real plus.
posted by vilandra at 11:43 AM on August 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

Just shortly after my comment above, I am no longer getting acceptable download speeds from Clear. It appears that I am a victim of their new throttling software that limits download speed to around 0.5 Mb/s after you pass an unspecified weekly or monthly usage cap.

Since I can't watch reasonably watch online video or download software at this speed, I'm now looking into other options.
posted by mbrubeck at 2:56 PM on September 30, 2010

To Clear's credit, I spent about half an hour explaining and troubleshooting my problems with technical support, and 24 hours later my speed was back to normal.
posted by mbrubeck at 10:22 AM on October 2, 2010

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