Day of 4G technology -- mobile WiMax -- nears

Published 2 December 2008

Clearwire and Sprint Nextel completes transaction to combine their next-generation wireless Internet businesses; companies announce $3.2 billion investment to launch 4G mobile Internet company

The day of readily available 4G technology nears, and first responders and other law enforcement units — to say nothing about consumers — will be glad to hear that Clearwire Corporation has completed the transaction with Sprint Nextel to combine their next-generation wireless Internet businesses. The new company retains the Clearwire name and expects to build the first nationwide 4G mobile broadband network focused on meeting the growing needs and demands for Internet-based communications services. In addition, Clearwire has received a $3.2 billion 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 7 May 2008.

Craig McGaw, Clearwire visionary chairman, said, “This is not simply about a time-to-market advantage, but about having an amazing block of spectrum that is unencumbered by legacy commercial uses and technology. It is a chance to do something right the first time, with simplicity and incredible efficiencies. We are building a wireless broadband network that will stand the test of both time and competition. This is far and away the most exciting opportunity in wireless I have seen since the beginning of cellular in 1983.”

Clearwire’s open all-IP network uses mobile WiMAX technology (aka 802.16e), offering customers with average download speeds initially of 2 to 4 megabits per second and peak rates that are considerably faster. The company noted, though, that its spectrum holdings are what enables the company to provide true mobile broadband services. At the closing, Sprint contributed its entire 2.5 GHz spectrum holdings to Clearwire. With this combined spectrum portfolio, Clearwire now has 100 MHz or more of optimal 4G spectrum in most markets across the United States.

In the landline world, service providers can’t deliver broadband without a big enough ‘pipe,’ and in the wireless world that means having enough of the right kind of spectrum,” said Ben Wolff, the CEO of the company (for a while, at Clearwire, his title was Chief Strategy Officer). “Our significant spectrum holdings provide Clearwire with unmatched, dedicated network capacity for data services that will enable us to deliver true, mobile broadband services in ways never before possible.”

The company also announced that while its company name will remain Clearwire, its new mobile WiMAX services will be branded “Clear.” The Clear brand will apply to all new mobile WiMAX services to be offered by Clearwire in the United States and will be phased in to those markets where Clearwire offers pre-WiMAX services, as these existing markets are upgraded to mobile WiMAX technology. The company said that in the coming months, the Clear brand will replace the XOHM service name previously used by Sprint Nextel in the Baltimore, Maryland market.