Today the Wall Street Journal finally got around to pointing out that Clearwire’s plans to build out its Clear WiMAX network would likely be affected by the tight credit markets — something we first brought up in October. At that time, Clearwire said if needed, it could draw out the timing on its network build-out if it could not raise money at reasonable rates, an option Clearwire CEO Ben Wolff reiterated to us when we spoke with him earlier this month. The company said it has to raise up to $2.3 billion to cover the gap between the costs of its nationwide WiMAX build-out and the $3.2 billion invested in the venture by Google and cable companies. Others have put that gap at $5 billion.
However Chris King, an analyst from investment bank Stifel Nicolaus, says that if it does choose to wait, Clearwire could lose out on its 4G first mover’s advantage. It might, depending on how quickly other carriers move to LTE, although Clearwire will likely have a price advantage over LTE services, much like it has an advantage over 3G cellular data plans today. But that price competitiveness comes at a steep cost to Clearwire, as King doesn’t expect the company to make a profit until 2015.