Clearwire: Almost home
November 20 shareholder vote final step; first Clearwire market to take customers in December
For more coverage of Sprint and Clearwire’s WiMAX plans, see Telephony’s Xohm topic page
Clearwire and Sprint are just steps away from finalizing their WiMAX venture, Clearwire Chief Executive Officer Ben Wolff said today, requiring only a shareholder vote next week and the final okay from vendors before the combined company can begin turning up new networks and map out its deployment plans for the coming year.
Last week the FCC voted to approve the merger of Sprint’s WiMAX assets with Clearwire, making it the last regulatory hurdle standing in front of the venture. “Navigating successfully through all of the necessary regulatory approvals in less than six months since first announcing the definitive agreement in May is a tremendous milestone for us,” Wolff said on Clearwire’s third-quarter earnings call today. “We’re making progress on all closing steps as expeditiously as possible as we continue to work at closing the transaction by the end of the year.”
While Clearwire still isn’t revealing the details of its WiMAX rollout plan—Wolff said that will come after the Sprint deal closes—the company did name specific progress in two of its markets. Clearwire’s trial in Portland—its first planned market launch—is now hosting 200 friendly users. In December, Clearwire will begin to allow commercial customers on the network, but unlike Sprint, Clearwire won’t be launching any commercial networks this year. Portland will commercially launch in the beginning of 2009, followed by Las Vegas, Atlanta and Grand Rapids, Mich. Sprint has already launched Xohm commercially in Baltimore and has promised to bring Washington, D.C., and Chicago online by the end of the year.Clearwire also confirmed that it has converted its first fixed broadband wireless network using Motorola’s proprietary NextNet technology to a WiMAX network supporting full mobility. In October, Motorola built a WiMAX overlay in Bellingham, Wash. Clearwire officials said that project was more for planning and engineering purposes rather than commercial migration, but the Bellingham transition will serve as the template for converting to WiMAX the dozens of US markets in which Clearwire already has NextNet gear. Clearwire currently has 14 million points of presence (POPs) in the NextNet footprint, and the four WiMAX markets under construction cover an additional 6 million.
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