The Clearwire Timeline: What Will Thursday’s Call Add?

February 16, 2011

With no inside knowledge, we are still expecting that Thursday’s scheduled Q4/2010 yearly earnings call from nascent national WiMAX provider Clearwire will yield some solid news about the company’s path forward, including a full explanation of the rumors that say Clearwire will ditch retail operations and focus on being a wholesale provider to partners like Sprint, Comcast and Time Warner Cable.

While we have some guesses as to which way things may go — and who may or may not be leaving the company sometime soon — we’ll wait for the official word and report immediately after. (You can also follow us on Twitter, @paulkaps, for off the cuff reactions to the news on the call which starts at 1:30 Pacific Time.) As a public service we present the following timeline with Clearwire historical highlights — please feel free to add your own in the comments.

CLEARWIRE HISTORICAL TIMELINE

(An unofficial review of the top events in the history of Clearwire, the provider of a WiMAX 4G network in 71+ markets in the U.S.)

August, 2004 — Clearwire debuts in Jacksonville, Fla. (Though Clearwire’s technology is a proprietary WiMax-like flavor, it is close enough to real WiMax that Clearwire’s planned switch to standards-based gear should not cause undue hardships to the company and its customers.)

October, 2004 — Intel Capital signs on as a Clearwire investor, the first of many WiMax investments from Intel.

May 2005 — Intel and Sprint announced a “joint effort” to advance mobile WiMax, with no mention of funding or investment.

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Clearwire’s New Chairman: A Trusted McCaw Ally

January 18, 2011

Founder Craig McCaw may have resigned as chairman of WiMAX provider Clearwire, but don’t doubt that his influence is still being felt there. The company announced today that board member and longtime wireless industry exec (and key McCaw ally) John Stanton was elected as chairman of the board, thereby guaranteeing that McCaw will at the very least have a close ally at the top of the company he helped found.

Sam Churchill over at Dailywireless.org has a good thorough writeup of the Stanton move with some pertinent links. What we are watching for at Clearwire is the re-emergence of dealmaker Ben Wolff, the company’s first CEO and the mastermind (from what we have heard) of the complex financial investment deal that birthed the new Clearwire in the first place. Can Wolff, who convinced players like Intel, Comcast and Google to invest a combined $3.2 billion in Clearwire back in 2008, work his dealmaking magic again? That’s the billion-dollar question around Clearwire these days.


Best Buy to Resell Clearwire’s 4G WiMAX Service

July 29, 2010

Big-box retailer Best Buy will resell Clearwire’s 4G WiMAX wireless broadband service under its “Best Buy Connect” brand beginning in 2011, the companies announced today. The deal, versions of which have been rumored almost ever since Clearwire put together its partnership financing deal back in 2008, makes Best Buy the first big-name wholesale partner for Clearwire outside of its core investor group of traditional service providers, a list that includes Sprint Nextel, Comcast and Time-Warner Cable, which all currently resell Clearwire services under their own brands.

“It’s always been a part of Clearwire’s plan to add additional wholesale partners,” said Teresa Elder, president for strategic partnerships and wholesale operations at Clearwire. Best Buy, which recently announced the Best Buy Connect program to resell Sprint’s 3G services, is a potential attractive partner for any broadband service provider simply because of the company’s size and its on-the-ground presence for customers who prefer an in-person purchasing experience.

While pricing and availability details won’t be provided until it gets closer to the planned 2011 availability date, the 4G service will likely mirror the current 3G offering from Best Buy, which includes a mix of plans and options including equipment-discounted deals as well as month-to-month contracts with no early termination fees. Earlier this year, Best Buy, Intel and Clearwire teamed up for a series of WiMAX equipment and service promotions, with discounts for WiMAX-equipped netbooks and laptops purchased alongside long-term contracts for Clearwire service.

Best Buy, Elder said, represents “a different kind of partner” than Clearwire’s existing wholesale resellers, who are all traditional service providers. While the jury is still out on whether or not consumers want to purchase service plans directly from a big-box retailer, having Best Buy promoting WiMAX in all its stores is a win for Clearwire, since any new customer, retail or wholesale, is a boost to Clearwire’s bottom line.

In fact, when Clearwire announces its 2010 second-quarter financial results next week, it is likely that new wholesale subscribers will surpass new Clear-branded retail customers for the first time, mainly because of the sellout success of Sprint’s HTC EVO 4G WiMAX smartphone that went on sale in June. Comcast and Time-Warner Cable have also increased their WiMAX reselling efforts of late, and in the first quarter of 2010 the reseller partners together added 111,000 new subscribers to Clearwire’s network, for a total of 157,000 wholesale subscribers overall.

Still in the future for Clearwire’s wholesale efforts would be a deal with an electronics manufacturer, where Clearwire would provide the back-end connectivity for something like the Amazon Kindle e-Reader, whose connectivity costs are bundled into the content purchase price. Elder said Clearwire continues to talk to multiple potential wholesale partners, since its spectrum position and network capacity give Clearwire the capacity to do so.

“There’s room for lots of partners,” Elder said.