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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Two Things That Submarined the Clear Brand: Sprint’s 4G Smartphone Success and the Hybrid Hotspot

February 9, 2011

From several reports leaking out Wednesday night it is becoming apparent that Clearwire’s days of having its own retail brand are at the very least numbered, if not quite yet at zero. While we are guessing there will be more real details (and perhaps some more executive departures) discussed at both the upcoming Sprint earnings call on Feb. 10 and the Clearwire call on Feb. 17, the switch to a wholesale-first strategy makes a lot of sense for Clearwire since it technically has already happened, when wholesale numbers surpassed Clear-brand retail customers during the third quarter of 2010.

While we’re going to wait to dissect the shift until after real confirmed details arise, we can take a quick look back at two developments that are most likely the chief reasons why the Clear brand strategy got submarined: The success of the Sprint 4G smartphone introductions and the introduction of mobile hotspots, especially Sprint’s hybrid 3G/4G Overdrive hotspot as well as the hotspot feature in the 4G phones.

Though Sprint and Clearwire had previously been fairly frank about not seeing any competition between brands, most of that talk occurred before this past summer’s introduction of the first real 4G smartphone, Sprint’s HTC EVO 4G. The buzz winner at CTIA translated into a sellout success at the retail level, clearly surprising Sprint and its supplier since the company ran out of EVOs to sell not long after the introduction.
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