NEW YORK (Reuters) - Sprint Nextel and its Clearwire Corp venture will begin offering their high-speed wireless services from November across some of the busiest U.S. cities: New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco.
The service — powered by a new technology known as WiMax — will be available in New York on November 1, Los Angeles on December 1 and in San Francisco around the end of December, according to Sprint.
Because these cities have a high concentration of affluent people who tend to want to buy the latest technology first, they are seen as key battlegrounds for U.S. telecom providers.
New York and San Francisco are seen as particularly tough markets to support wireless data services because of the number of people using high-tech gadgets. AT&T Inc, the exclusive U.S. iPhone provider, has had to invest heavily to fight criticism about its network performance in those cities.
Sprint, the No. 4 U.S. mobile provider and a 55 percent owner of Clearwire, will offer the service — which it markets publicly as its fourth-generation or 4G — using space on Clearwire’s network.
However, both companies compete with each other for the same customers, a factor that analysts say has sparked tension between their management teams, especially as Clearwire seeks new funding to continue expanding its network beyond 2010. Three top Sprint executives recently resigned from Clearwire’s board.
The launches come as Verizon Wireless, the biggest U.S. mobile service, plans to roll out a high-speed upgrade to its network in 38 cities covering 110 million people by year end.
Clearwire, which has been launching its WiMax service gradually throughout the year, has promised coverage for 120 million people by the end of the year.
Verizon Wireless is a venture of Verizon Communications and Vodafone Group Plc.
Reporting by Sinead Carew; editing by Carol Bishopric