Feature Article

October 29, 2012

Clearwire Trims LTE Construction Schedule

Clearwire recently has said it will essentially not build a national Long Term Evolution network, but rather focus on a smaller number of U.S. markets where it believes spectrum capacity will be most constrained, positioning Clearwire as a supplier of wholesale capacity to other LTE carriers in those markets.

“We have decided to adjust our LTE rollout to now target 2,000 sites on-air by the end of June 2013, while keeping content the longer-term goal of expanding our LTE network to up to 8,000 sites,” Clearwire CEO Erik Prusch says.

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Some might note that Clearwire’s existing understanding with Sprint was a 5,000-site LTE footprint by June 2013.

So there might be other considerations--beyond focusing on perhaps 100 U.S. markets where LTE spectrum needs are expected to be greatest.   

Prusch also now says Clearwire will reduce its construction timetable “based on our determination of when Sprint expects to start utilizing Clearwire's LTE capacity.”

And Clearwire seems to imply that it is not so sure how much capacity Sprint will buy, or when.  

“We already have sites fully commissioned with LTE awaiting connection to Sprint's core and expect the build activity to ramp in the fourth quarter to end the year with approximately 800 LTE commissioned sites,” said Prusch.

“We want to make certain that we're building this LTE network in conjunction or in alignment at the relative same time that Sprint is introducing devices capable of using it,” said Prusch.

Apparently, the reduction in sites does not so much represent a reduction in market coverage so much as coverage within the targeted markets, according to John Saw, Clearwire CTO.  

But some think revenue issues are the real problem. In that view, Clearwire’s retail and wholesale businesses are not spinning off enough revenue for Clearwire to risk higher capital investment at the moment.

Edited by Rich Steeves

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