In a fairly upbeat conference call Thursday, Clearwire Corp. spelled out a pretty ambitious services rollout plan of new markets for 2009 and 2010, apparently putting to rest the Clearwire-has-stalled stories that seemed so fashionable to write recently. Our quick take? That Clearwire is over some of its earlier personality conflicts and is now confident it has the right model to move forward in the 4G wireless broadband wars, and will do so with eight more market launches before year’s end. Sounds like Game On, WiMax! to us.
As we said before, $3.2 billion is still a lot of money, and according to Clearwire CEO Ben Wolff and other execs on the call Thursday, the provider has enough money in the bank to build out eight new markets in 2009 (including Chicago and Philadelphia) and several more big ones in 2010, including New York and San Francisco.
Two points made strongly during the call: that Clearwire has lots more spectrum than other wireless operators, and that the costs of operating WiMax networks are more attractive than those for cellular-based offerings, due to the relative simplicity of the IP-based infrastructure. Does that mean that WiMax is superior or will “win” versus the Long Term Evolution (LTE) offerings being planned by Verizon and AT&T? Maybe, maybe not. But having spectrum and the lower-cost technology does give Clearwire some running room. (If you want more details may we humbly suggest ordering our WiMax Market Report, which spells out WiMax’s potential advantages in great detail.)
The next milestone for Clearwire will be in three months, when the company will have to provide some numbers to back up its enthusiasm for customer uptake in its Portland market, which the company claims is much higher/faster/better than in any of its pre-WiMax market launches. Until then, it’s back to putting radios on towers with some now-Clear deadlines in place.