With Clearwire and Sprint pushing for mobile WiMAX coverage in 80 U.S. markets by the end of 2010, and promising three new WiMAX-powered smartphones in the near future, it’s easy to lose sight of the wireless technology as a solution for rural residential broadband.

Today, Kansas Broadband Internet (KBI) announced it is moving ahead with the construction of its own WiMAX network with PureWave as the exclusive hardware provider. The finished network will cover 18 counties, and more than 12,000 square miles. With only 33 residents per square mile, Kansas is one of the United States’ ten least densely populated states.

In such sparsely populated areas, WiMAX is an economical solution for reaching the most residents with the least amount of infrastructure. KBI today said that a single base station with six antennas can deliver a 15-mile range of service.

“As we migrate our wireless network from proprietary equipment to more advanced and capable mobile WiMAX technology, we need a solution that is powerful, simple to deploy, easy to maintain and cost effective all at the same time,” said Lee Miller, President and CEO of KBI. “We…are now able to deliver such advanced services as streaming video to customers located 7.5 miles away from the base station in a non-line of site environment. We are reaching customers we were never able to serve before.”

Instead of deploying in rural areas, Sprint and Clearwire thus far have concentrated on deploying WiMAX in urban areas and major air travel hubs. Sprint Nextel’s very own hometown is Kansas City, and the telecommunications company is the number one employer of Kansas residents (according to the Kansas City Business Journal Book of Lists, 2007.) The company has still not officially provided a launch date for Kansas City’s WiMAX network. In all likelihood, the Sprint 4G network will launch well before KBI’s WiMAX network, possibly as early as this summer.