Clearwire Q1 Conference Call: The Highlights

We will update this as the call progresses: So far it’s a pretty strong performance from new CEO Bill Morrow — clearly he has done this kind of thing before.

Press release on numbers is out — Clearwire says it added 25,000 new subscribers over Q1. Won’t break out numbers but you have to think most are in Portland, where Clearwire launched its new mobile services Jan. 6. But the total does include all Clearwire’s pre-WiMax markets. By comparison, the company added just 5,000 new subs in Q4 before Portland was launched. So conservatively — 20,000 new customers in Portland in 3 months.

Clearwire adds three new execs — “G. Michael Sievert who will join as Chief Commercial Officer; Kevin Hart who will serve as Chief Information Officer; and Laurent Bentitou who will join as Chief People Officer,” according to the press release. Hart was former CIO at Level 3; Sievert was at Lenovo, Microsoft, AT&T.

Former Clearwire president Barry West is now “President — International.” Is this the equivalent of being exiled to Siberia? Not really a surprise since the Baltimore Xohm launch (West’s baby) did not go the way Clearwire wanted. With the rise in visibility of chief strategy officer Scott Richardson, Clearwire didn’t need another “vision guy” like West in the thick of things.

Morrow makes a strong point about how Clearwire is “not trying to unseat the wireless [voice] carriers.” I think this is smart — Clearwire needs to sell itself as a data provider, not a cell-phone replacement. Good luck; not an easy thing to do with the press, which loves headlines like “WiMax vs. LTE.” Just another challenge for a company that is still the underdog.

CEO Morrow: “We have 3 years to build a WiMax ecosystem” before any LTE competition reaches critical mass. Our opinion — Cisco news today will help Clearwire fight the perception that LTE is just around the corner and everyone should just wait. But fighting the AT&T and Verizon publicity machines is never easy. Just ask Vonage.

Clearwire says it will increase its workforce by 50 percent this year. Here comes the resume flood!

Call is over — lots of big questions still unanswered. No info on whether the Cisco deal involves an investment in Clearwire — or sweetheart equipment/financing deals — maybe that will be part of Q2 call. Also no news on when exactly Chicago will launch — a market we think is Clearwire’s big test for 2009. But overall a big, positive day for Clearwire, especially on the Cisco front. That’s a vote of confidence that will turn some heads in Silicon Valley and elsewhere.

3 Responses to “Clearwire Q1 Conference Call: The Highlights”

  1. Phil Says:

    I think the trade press loves the WiMax vs. LTE because the two technologies, in the same market, are indeed competitive.

  2. Ken Camp Says:

    One of the things I find most interesting about Clearwire is how often they talk about all the hiring they’re doing. It’s an interesting dichotomy because I’ve talked to a great many people who’ve submitted resumes and letters of interest, yet Clearwire doesn’t do anything but send a canned response. And I’ve experience this personally with them as well. The consensus among many is that they’re stockpiling resumes for when they do really hit their stride and the the jobs they advertise are speculative. I think when they actually start hiring people is when we’ll see they’ve begun to gain a foothold. Until then, Clearwire remains an interesting question mark for most.

  3. Paul Says:

    @Phil we will find out more about how competitive when LTE services actually arrive in the market; it will be interesting to see how a Verizon prices LTE in markets where it also offers FIOS. My bet is that Clearwire will remain cheaper and offer more data bandwidth, but that LTE will have better mobile voice offerings. Is that two distinctly different customer camps, or are they really battling for the same core user? Not sure at this point.

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