today announced the completion of its acquisition of all the 2.5 GHz wireless broadband spectrum previously owned or controlled by AT&T
and the former BellSouth.
With this acquisition, Clearwire’s U.S. spectrum holdings increased to cover an estimated 223 million people with varying depths of spectrum. In addition, Clearwire holds spectrum in Europe that covers approximately 199 million people. Clearwire holds one of the world’s largest portfolios of WiMAX spectrum.
The biggest WiMAX-related investment in 2006 went to Clearwire, which got $900 million from Intel Capital to develop and deploy portable and mobile WiMAX networks. Intel funded Clearwire in part because the chip maker plans to integrate mobile WiMAX into upcoming notebooks.
Clearwire then went public earlier this year. Its stock has fluctuated, and analysts predict the company will continue losing money for several years, but they consider Clearwire a good long-term investment.
Beceem Communications, which makes mobile WiMAX chipsets, recently raised an additional $40 million, and increases the seven-year-old company’s funding to about $150 million. Aperto Networks, secured another $19 million, boosting its capital to $139 million and base station provider Navini Networks recently received $50 million from the venture capital arm of Arcapita Bank and Austin Ventures.
WiMAX aims to differentiate from existing services by bringing broadband connectivity to a host of new devices, starting with new computing devices such as Ultra Mobile PCs (UMPCs) and Mobile Internet Devices (MIDs), and then branching out into consumer electronics devices such as digital cameras.
Clearwire’s field trial in Hillsboro, Oregon, a suburb of Portland, was jointly conducted with Intel and Motorola. It used infrastructure equipment based on the IEEE 802.16e mobile WiMAX standard. The first phase of the field trial focused on coverage, capacity and speed.
WiMax.com recently sat down with Scott Richardson, Clearwire’s Chief Strategic Officer, to discuss its service offerings and latest developments around WiMAX.
Currently Clearwire is offering proprietary wireless services using radio equipment from Motorola/Nextnet. Will Clearwire offer true WiMAX Broadband Services using certified WiMAX equipment?
Yes, subject to equipment being available we expect to deploy mobile WiMAX in the first half of next year.
Does your business model hinge on a largely residential customer base, a business-to-business model or some kind of mix?
Our business plan focuses on delivering a unique, high-value service with increasing average rate per user and penetration opportunities as we add additional features, functionality and value-added services to our network.
Starting next year we expect to see mobile WiMAX chipsets being built into PCs and handheld devices that should further enhance our market opportunity. As more and more mobile WiMAX end user devices become available and as we begin to deploy mobile WiMAX networks, we believe we will have tremendous opportunities to increase our average rate per user and penetration as we migrate to a per user or per device model.
Is there anything holding you back with your deployment plans in the US and other markets?
We are in a great position for sustained long-term success. We have a strong management team lead by Craig McCaw and many other communications industry leaders, we have a WiMAX spectrum footprint across the US and Europe that is second to none and next generation technology supported by industry leaders like Intel and Motorola.
What is Clearwire’s view on Net Neutrality and offering complete open access to the internet to mobile WiMAX users?
Clearwire supports the Net Neutrality principles set forth by the FCC in its 2005 Broadband Policy Statement. As would any responsible facilities-based broadband service provider, Clearwire implements reasonable network and bandwidth management practices to protect and ensure the integrity and performance of our unique wireless broadband network.
It appears that Clearwire intends to deploy wireless broadband services in Tier II markets first and then target major metropolitan areas later. Can you comment on your deployment Strategy?
We build in a wide range of markets from major metropolitan areas to small, rural communities, and markets of all sizes in between. We are currently in 38 US markets, covering 9.1 million people in more than 400 municipalities in 12 states. We are also in four international markets in Denmark, Belgium, Ireland and Mexico.
Clearwire is targeting some cities that plan to have municipal wi-fi networks in place. Do you see Muni Wi-Fi deployments as a serious competitor to your service offering?
Clearwire also works with municipalities. For example, we have an agreement with the city of Grand Rapids, Michigan to provide our wireless broadband network throughout the city’s 45 square miles. Our agreement with Grand Rapids is expected to include WiMAX/WiFI hybrid host spots that involve the placement of numerous WiFi hotspots in strategic locations throughout the city.
Mobile WiMAX will connect 8% of the world’s 1.1 billion mobile broadband subscribers by 2012, accounting for nearly 88 million users worldwide, according to a report from Parks Associates, which also forecasts 52% of these subscribers will be from Asian countries while North and South America will account for another 28%.
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