The Sidecut Interview: Clearwire CEO Bill Morrow

Editor’s note: Here is an edited transcript of an exclusive Q&A with Clearwire CEO Bill Morrow that Sidecut Reports conducted just after Morrow’s keynote speech at 4G World in Chicago Sept. 16. Much more from Clearwire and 4G World as the week unfolds!

Sidecut Reports: Does Wall Street understand what Clearwire is doing? The unclear stories this week from New York about the idea that you might “drop” WiMAX in favor of LTE makes it seem like there is still some confusion on their end.

Clearwire CEO Bill Morrow: I think they understand. When I came in here [as CEO] six months ago there seemed to be a question about what would happen if they [large investors] invested in Clearwire and WiMAX, and it didn’t succeed. Now, with more markets launched, they’re getting some good insights and are diving further in, and seeing things like the fact that our costs [of deployment] are lower.

Sidecut Reports: Talk about your pricing and strategic message — is it now centered around mobility, around value, or around speed?

Morrow: I think you have to have all of the above. You have to get value to the point where it raises the eyebrows of people. We want to have the simplest pricing, the best pricing. Over time you include value-added services, so the value of the entire proposition increases.

Sidecut Reports:
But how do you get that message out?

Morrow: Part of it is by making sure you build the right reputation and brand image. Mike Seivert, our chief commercial officer, is in lockstep with me on this — we want to create a very different fundamental experience for the customer. Even the simple act of getting a bill — I was at [California energy utility] PG&E, and I know from having bills that were too complex or hard to figure out, the customer would almost say “I don’t trust you!”

What I really want to see is us get the word out, to get customers on the network and then have them talk about it to other customers. The message carries so much further when it’s in the customer’s own voice.

Sidecut Reports: You’ve had another recent rearrangement at the executive level. Do you feel like you have the team you need in place now?

Morrow: We had to make the decision that if we were going to scale, and move down the path of leveraging the opportunity, we needed some different skill sets. I feel like we have a really solid team in place now.

Sidecut Reports: Will we see 100 WiMAX devices out by the end of the year, something that Ben Wolff had promised earlier in 2009? Right now it looks like WiMAX is on the short end of that stick.

Morrow: I can understand the [number of] devices being launched when you look at where we are. I think so far it’s proper for the [amount of] network rollout. The devices will come. I think if you look around the world, at other WiMAX networks, you see that Yota [in Russia] already has a WiMAX phone and the Taiwanese are very active. I don’t think you should underestimate what the device vendors may do.

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