The carrier quietly let customers who have iSpot accounts in suspended animation (or inactive status) know that they have until February 10th to reactivate their service, otherwise their accounts will be terminated. The more shocking news in the email to customers is that after the 10th, any lapse in service will make it impossible to reactivate the iSpot in the future.
The Clear iSpot was Clearwire’s attempt to draw in Apple iOS customers, many of whom were facing metered data on carriers such as AT&T. The device was a firmware-modified version of the original Clear Spot, which featured an unlimited $25 per month 4G WiMAX plan, running at 6 mbps down, and 1 mbps up.
However, Clearwire faced several challenges that ultimately forced them to pull the product from the market. Apple, not having certified the device, began randomizing the MAC (network serial number) address ranges of iOS devices, and used ranges previously reserved for Macintosh computers. This left Clearwire in a bind, many iOS customers could not use iSpot.
For Clearwire to have allowed all iOS devices under the new MAC addresses, would have also required Clearwire to let Mac users have unlimited data for $25/month. Worse, some Mac models were already able to access the iSpot’s data plans, having MAC addresses close enough to the original iOS range, and were hampering the Clearwire network excessively.
To add to Clearwire’s woes, hackers quickly rooted the Linux-based iSpot, and removed the MAC address restrictions. Web sites even rolled out one-click rooting processes. Even if Clearwire were able to patch these firmware loopholes, it would not fully fix the problem. Jailbreakers had figured out how to use an $80 first-generation iPod touch as a relay router, feeding iSpot’s Internet to any computer, which could in-turn power a whole household with Internet for $25 per month.
The company did make clear though that anyone who keeps a Clear iSpot active going forward will be grandfathered into the $25/month plan, provided they maintain continuous service going forward. This will likely remain until Clearwire shuts down the Clear WiMAX network, expected by outsiders sometime within the next 12 to 72 months. Clearwire has not yet given any timeframe for when they plan to roll out their LTE network fully, and when they plan to dismantle their WiMAX network.
Clearwire is clearly trying to close the door on iSpot. We have emergency calls into Clearwire as to if fully-deactivated iSpots can be reactivated at this late time, or if only those on hibernation plans can reactivate. We’ll update this report when we hear back from Clear.
Update: Clearwire has confirmed our initial report, which we have expanded on in a follow-up article.