Teardown: Under the hood of CLEAR’s WIXB-175 Series G modem

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With WiMAX coverage in the US improving gradually, we wanted to take a closer look at CLEAR, the leading WiMAX service provider in the States.  CLEAR was formed by Sprint Nextel and Clearwire, although Sprint also offers its own WiMAX services called 4G.

One of the benefits of WiMAX is that the technology can be used as an alternative to cable or DSL Internet.  The CLEAR WIXB-175 Series G modem, pictured above, connects to the CLEAR network wirelessly and, just like a DSL or cable modem, can be used as an Internet connection for a computer, IP phone or wireless router.

After the jump, we take a closer look at the innards of the CLEAR WIXB-175, thanks to internal photo goodness from the FCC.

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The WIXB-175 is manufactured by Gemtek Technology, a well known Taiwanese OEM.  The device isn’t small – it measures 9” x 6” x 3”.  The size of the WIXB-175 is likely due to it’s internal antenna, which, as you can see above, takes up a significant portion of the device’s interior.  While we don’t love big boxes from service providers, we do appreciate the aesthetic benefit that an internal antenna provides.

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A Beceem BCS5200 data and voice WiMAX processor is at the core of the CLEAR WIXB-175.  Haven’t heard of Beceem?  The company was founded in 2003 and focuses exclusively on WiMAX processors.  Beceem’s investors include Intel Capital, Samsung and NEC, among others.  The company also offers a mobile WiMAX processor called the BCSM250 that’s designed for WiMAX USB modems and data cards.

The BCS5200 is an ARM 11-based processor designed to support WiMAX CPE devices.  The chip is also able to support VoIP services, which gives WiMAX service providers a valuable double-play option.

With the exception of the Beceem BCS5200 and an internal antenna, the WIXB-175 is mostly similar to other high speed Internet modems.  It will be interested to see how the WiMAX silicon market develops over the next several years as update for WiMAX increases.

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