Clearwire, wireless entrepreneur Craig McCaw's latest venture, said yesterday that it has signed a distribution agreement with Best Buy...

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Clearwire, wireless entrepreneur Craig McCaw’s latest venture, said yesterday that it has signed a distribution agreement with Best Buy to sell its wireless high-speed broadband service in their stores.

The agreement could make Kirkland-based Clearwire the first to sell a wireless broadband technology referred to as WiMax in a mainstream retail outlet.

To date, Clearwire has rolled out service in 19 markets, including the Tri-Cities and Bellingham. Starting Oct. 30, the service is scheduled to be available at 25 Best Buy locations, with more stores to be added as Clearwire rolls out in more markets.

Clearwire is one of the first companies in the country that has taken steps to build a widespread consumer service based on WiMax technology, which is still in early development and standardization.

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Yankee Group analyst Lindsay Schroth said she doesn’t know of any other wireless broadband company selling through a high-profile retail location such as Best Buy.

“It’s important that companies like Clearwire are doing something like that to get people to understand what the solutions are,” she said.

WiMax differs from the popular Wi-Fi technology in that it covers greater distances, offering speeds on par with DSL. Also, Clearwire is using licensed airwaves, which lowers the likelihood of interference issues that Wi-Fi sometimes encounters.

Clearwire offers one- and two-year contracts for the service, which can range from $25 to $40 a month. Customers lease a modem about the size of a thin dictionary. The modem plugs into an electrical outlet and the computer. No software is installed.

Perry Satterlee, Clearwire’s chief operating officer, said the simplicity of the device attracted Best Buy.

“So many of the folks today who buy a computer go home and then have to wait for other providers [to install Internet access],” he said. “From a retail perspective, you can now close all the pieces of the sale when you send someone out the door.”

Satterlee said Clearwire expects to have a high-profile presence on Best Buy shelves. Previously, it was selling its service directly through its own 19 retail stores, company-owned kiosks and through authorized dealers.

Before running Clearwire, McCaw founded McCaw Cellular Communications, which later became AT&T Wireless and now is part of Cingular. He later built the wireless network that became Nextel Communications.

McCaw has raised at least $560 million in capital and debt to fund Clearwire’s development and operations. The company has about 500 employees.

Tricia Duryee: 206-464-3283 or tduryee@seattletimes.com