Clearwire-Sprint: Done Deal

Clearwire and Sprint Nextel announced today that they have completed the transaction to combine their next-generation wireless Internet businesses. With the closing, Sprint contributed all of its 2.5 GHz spectrum and its WiMAX-related assets, including its XOHM business, to Clearwire. In addition, Clearwire has received a $3.2 Billion cash investment from Comcast, Intel, Time Warner Cable, Google and Bright House Networks.

The transaction with Sprint and the new cash investment were completed on the terms originally announced on May 7, 2008. The new company retains the name Clearwire and remains headquartered in Kirkland, Washington. The deal (pdf), announced in May, will provide funding for Sprint and Clearwire to build the network and allow cable providers to offer wireless services to help them compete with rivals AT&T and Verizon. It will use Sprint’s existing broadcast wireless towers and its wired fiber network.

On Monday, December 1, 2008, at 10 a.m. Eastern Time (7 a.m. Pacific Time), Clearwire will hold a conference call for press and industry analysts to share its perspective and provide other details about the new company.

Sprint, which had earlier said they’d spend some $5 billion by 2010 building their WiMAX network across the United States, will now own about 51 percent of the new company. Sprint’s new partners will invest some $3 billion. Clearwire will own about 27 percent. Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Intel, Google and Bright House will get a combined 22 percent.

The partners have put the value of the deal at $12 billion, a figure that includes radio spectrum and equipment provided by Sprint Nextel and Clearwire, and the $3.2 billion invested by the partners.

Clearwire will be the only company allowed to sell 4G access as a standalone service, according to Sprint CTO Berry West. Sprint will essentially access the network as a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO), selling combined 3G and 4G access plans. Clearwire CEO Ben Wolff told the Seattle Times that, ultimately, the company could “get to 20,000 or 30,000 employees” nationally. Clearwire has about 2,000 employees now, including 350 to 400 at its Kirkland headquarters. Sprint has about 700 in its WiMax unit, including a research and development group in Herndon, Va.

Clearwire’s next rollout is expected to be in Portland, Oregon, early next year, where the company has been testing the system with partner Intel for the last year.

Analysis by Juniper Research indicates up to 12% of the global DSL installed base will be substituted by WiMAX by 2013. The Far East will lead with over one fifth of the 47 million subscribers in 2013.

The combined Mobile WiMAX network is expected to cover 120-140 million people in the U.S. by year-end 2010.

Related WiMax stories on Dailywireless include; Clearwire: Show Us the Money, Xohm Marks the Spot, Chicago Xohmed Next?, WiMAX Doomed? Not., Mobile WiMAX: Fast, Cheap and Out of Control?, Mobile WiMAX Cooking- But Still in the Kitchen, WiMAX Roundup, Australia Unwired, Australian Blowup, BT’s European WiMAX Plan, Backhaul Delays Xohm Rollout, Hesse on WiMAX, Sprint’s WiMAX Rollout?, Sprint-Clearwire Deal Dead, Sprint Considering WiMAX Spinoff?, Sprint Forces Forsee Out, WiMAX Demoed on Chicago River, The Launch, ICO Wants Its Mobile TV – via DVB-SH, Google Apps for Clearwire, Sprint WiMAX: It’s Called “Xohm”, Xohm “Partners”?, Death to WiMAX?, Verizon: It’s LTE, and Sprint: It’s WiMAX!

Gigabyte Rolls Out First Moblin Device

Intel’s open source Moblin platform is beginning to ship on consumer electronics products. The Linux-based platform is designed specifically for mobile Internet devices that use Intel’s Atom processor.

Gigabyte is preparing to release the M528, its first Moblin-based device, next week in Taipei. It has an 800Mhz Atom processor, 4GB internal storage, 512MB of RAM, a 3MP camera, and a 4.8-inch LCD touchscreen that supports a resolution of 800×480. It also has support for WiFi and 3G connectivity.

IDG reports that the product will be available for NT$12,900 (US$386) with a 2-year 3G service contract at Chunghwa stores in Taiwan. The device will face strong competition from Apple’s 3G iPhone, which is also set to launch through Chunghwa next month.

Gigabyte’s M700 features a 7” LED backlight display and an Express Card slot that supports both HSPDA and WiMAX.

Can Telcos Live Without IPTV?

Ofcom’s international communications market report indicates that 15 per cent of UK homes were mobile-only in 2007 – an increase of two per cent on the year before. Ofcom said it expects the worldwide economic downturn, coupled with the rise of mobile broadband that gives people fat pipe access without the need to have a landline, to further depress landline uptake.

Speaking at the Informa Mobile, Broadband & TV Industry Outlook conference in London today, Julian Herbert, principal analyst at Informa, said: “Telcos probably are beginning to think they can’t live without it [IPTV] in the current circumstances.”

Blockbuster on Tuesday launched its own direct-to-TV player, taking on rivals Netflix and Apple TV in time for the holiday shopping season.

The player was built in partnership with 2Wire, a company that provides software and hardware for delivering Web content to home TVs. The 2Wire MediaPoint player makes it possible for Blockbuster subscribers with a high-speed Internet connection to rent videos online and play them on their home TV. To lure customers, Blockbuster is offering the player at no charge for people who rent 25 online Blockbuster movies in advance for $99. After the initial rentals, movies are available for prices starting at $1.99 each.

“The player is simple to use, delivers DVD quality video, and there’s no monthly subscription commitment,” Jim Keyes, chairman and chief executive of Blockbuster, said in a statement.

Console-affiliated media portals such as Microsoft’s Xbox LIVE and Sony’s PlayStation Network will soon become formidable competitors to incumbent PayTV services, says Research and Markets.

Netflix streams movies from the Internet to TV sets with the Netflix Player from Roku and by partnering to offer its streaming service via Xbox.

The LIVE Netflix service on Microsoft’s Xbox leverages broadband-enabled game consoles bypassing cable and satellite TV operators by providing a more immersive, interactive video experience. Samsung has announced that its BD-P2500 and BD-P2550 Blu-ray Players will have access to movies and TV shows via Netflix in HD via a firmware update. has two key properties. The first is a well-stocked video portal to streamable TV content from a plethora of partners, including: Hulu, CBS, Discovery, Warner Bros, Sony, MGM, A&E, etc.

Its Live TV content works with a Slingbox. Traditionally, these devices allow users to use a software client to remotely stream content that originates from their home. You can view it through IE or Firefox under Windows XP and Vista (Mac support is coming) or via mobile phone.

Qwest Communications announced this week that it is bringing back lower promotional pricing for its broadband services, with 1.5 Mbps DSL for $14.99 a month for a year (regularly priced at $39.99 a month) and Qwest Connect Platinum with up to 7 Mbps for $24.99 a month for a year (regularly priced at $49.99 a month) to new customers. Telephony magazine says it is an acknowledgement of two realities: First, that the broadband connection becomes more important to consumers during tough times, and second, that a telco losing a broadband customer may lose that customer for good.

Vietnam Testing Mobile WiMAX

Motorola announced this week that the company has deployed its first WiMAX trial network for Vietnam Datacommunications Company (VDC), a member company of the Vietnam Posts and Telecommunications Group (VNPT), the largest Internet service provider (ISP) in Vietnam.

The network allows VDC to test next-generation wireless broadband services in major cities of Vietnam, the company said.

The launch of the WiMAX service follows the signing of an agreement between Motorola and VDC to commence a technical and commercial WiMAX trial in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City last year. Under the agreement, Motorola will install WiMAX Diversity Access Points and more than 100 customer premises equipment (CPE) in the nation’s two largest cities.

Motorola WiMAX 802.16e technology allows more people across the country access to faster Internet connections and other advanced telecom services, contributing to the country’s economic growth.
“Vietnam Datacommunications Company gains competitive advantages by being a pioneer in trialing and launching new WiMAX services, which will allow us to capture market opportunities in the next generation wireless broadband space,” Mr. Vu Hoang Lien, CEO, VDC.

Motorola says they now have 24 contracts for commercial WiMAX networks in 19 countries.

Singapore Launches Femtocell Service

StarHub, Singapore’s second-largest mobile operator, and the sole cable TV provider in Singapore, has launched ‘Home Zone’, the world’s first commercially-available 3G femtocell service.

StarHub’s Home Zone service costs S$16.05 (US$10.62) per month with a 1-year contract. Users must also have a mobile-phone and broadband Internet accounts with StarHub for the service to work.

A Huawei 3G femtocell supplies cellular service in the home. A Starhub cable modem supplies backhaul.

Femtocells are similar to WiFi access points except they connect directly to a user’s 3G mobile phone. While services such as Voice-over-IP (VoIP) have been available for some years, these are restricted to VoIP-enabled mobile phones and generally use Wi-Fi. A 3G femtocell supports virtually all 3G-enabled phones. Customers don’t need to purchase special handsets.

Users who frequently make cell phone calls from home may save money by avoiding charges for cellular airtime with the femtocell service although StarHub still charges full mobile data rates for mobile downloads, MMS messages, and surfing the Internet using the cell phone. All local outgoing voice, video calls and SMS are free for customers using the ‘Home Zone’ service.

The subscriber can also nominate up to three other StarHub mobile numbers recognised by the ‘Home Zone’ service. This means that up to four StarHub 3G mobile users can call out simultaneously over a single ‘Home Zone’ connection. Hubbing families will be able to get more out of it with better cost-savings and convenience, says the company.

The commercial launch follows an extensive trial that began in May this year, says Unstrung, which also included femtocell devices from Huawei’s domestic rival ZTE. (See StarHub Starts Customer Femto Trial.)

Cellular operators like femtocells in that it transfers infrastructure costs to end users (who supply their own broadband backhaul). Comcast and Time-Warner Cable in the United States are also expected to adopt a femtocell approach for mobile Wi-Max handsets when they become available late next year. AT&T and Verizon are also expected to bundle femtocells with their broadband offerings.

Death Match: Storm vs Android vs iPhone

JK OntheRun compares AT&T’s iPhone, T-Mobile’s G1 and Verizon’s Storm.

How do they compare? That’s not really a fair question because at the basest level they are totally different phones that should appeal to different users. What I find the most interesting about this comparison is that all three phones are smartphones that are aimed at the consumer. This is a big change from the not so distant past when smartphones were almost exclusively the domain of the enterprise worker. The phones such as these three have straddled the fence and shown the consumer that the benefits of good smartphones are not restricted to the enterprise.

For me, the iPhone is out because it lacks microSD. The Storm is out because it lacks Wi-Fi. Android has both, plus lots of software and the cheapest service. What’s not to like?