Eight months after announcing the launch of Rover as a new prepaid brand via early morning press conference (and having my name mangled in the Q&A session) Clearwire has decided to quietly discontinue the Rover prepaid WiMax service as the parent company weathers financial and operational instability from capital issues and retail restructuring along with a recent exodus of executives.
Rover was originally introduced as a Clearwire sub-brand in order to draw in the coveted 18-24 youth market by offering contract free WiMax service with no contacts of caps on service. The service debuted in a limited number of markets around the country with pricing that maxed out at $50 a month with hardware such as the Rover Puck (so branded because of its resemblance to a hockey puck) and a more conventional USB modem.
Statement from Clearwire spokeswoman Susan Johnston:
"The personal hot spot category of products enable hundreds of Wi-Fi enabled products to access the Clearwire 4G network. Rover provided us with the ability to test some new pay-as-you-go pricing options and was offered on a limited retail basis in a couple markets." The company has ceased offering Rover plans and devices, but has new pre-paid options in the making that "should meet the needs of most of the Rover customer base."
In practice, the service worked as well as standard Clear mobile service and the Puck was extremely popular, though as with any youth-oriented brand, it tried way too hard to appeal to younger potential customers with the sponsorship of Cypress Hillâ€™s Up in Smoke tour along with a series of ads with obvious sexual undertones and bawdy flash ads. With the demise of Rover, those customers that are left with branded hardware unfortunately will not be able to activate it on Clear service, as the device ID block for Rover hardware is not integrated into Clearâ€™s activation systems, leaving former Rover customers with expensive paperweights and having to purchase new equipment and service in order to continue.