In a surprising move, last week Netflix published data on the performance of leading ISPs in the United States and Canada when it came to streaming video to its customers. And while no ISP came through with absolutely flying colors in Netflix’s assessment, wireless WiMax operator Clearwire was pretty consistently at the bottom of the heap. Although Clearwire isn’t disputing Netflix’s claims, it does want to make a couple of notes: Clearwire was the only wireless operator to appear at all in Netflix’s rankings, and it doesn’t matter how fast your cable connection is if you’re nowhere near it.
“We’d like to thank Netflix for ranking us with our wired counterparts and we’re jazzed about our ability to deliver a high-quality streaming experience to Netflix subscribers,” the company wrote in a blog post. “At a time when mobile video streaming is growing at an incredible rate, our network keeps people connected even after they’ve left the house (and their wired network behind).”
And Clearwire does have a point: current wireless network technologies all offer less bandwidth than fixed-line connections like DSL, cable, and fiber optic service. What may be significant about Netflix’s service provider ranking was that Clearwire was the only wireless operator that could be meaningfully be listed alongside fixed-line providers. Although that may change when Verizon and other players get 4G LTE service up and running, for now Clearwire is about the only wireless player in the market that can make a case for delivering Netflix-capable mobile broadband to its customers. And as other players enter the 4G market, between data caps and usage fees, how many of them are going to be able to make a strong case they’re a mobile solution for streaming video services like Netflix?