A Cool Clearwire Billion

What do they say, in for a penny, in for a pound! Make that in for a million, in for a billion. Craig McCaw’s Clearwire keeps getting more money. Intel and Motorola ratched up their investments in the fixed wireless company up by about $125 million, pushing the total funds raised by the company to a whopping $1.1 billion. As you may remember, the company had raised $900 million in early July. Arvind Sodhani, president of Intel Capital, and David Perlmutter, senior vice president and general manager of the Intel Mobility Group, to its board of directors. (Clearly they still have their day jobs!)
It is easy to understand why Motorola is investing in the company. Craig McCaw has done right by them in the past, and the company is in the wireless business. Intel is pushing hard on WiMAX and everything fixed wireless. But that’s all that there is to it. Are they being storm chasers again? Intel had also gone after the hosting business when it was hot – expensive exercise.

Intel despite all its posturing hasn’t really shown its communications chops…. at least yet. It made a lot of communications investments in the 1990s that did not real go anywhere. They spent a lot on WiFi, but Atheros, Broadcom and others still seem to be doing well. Wireless, or at least the easier availability should in theory prompt greater usage of non-PC devices, a business where Intel again has failed to sizzle. Will WiMAX drive PC sales – the only business which is still making money for Intel?

Still, McCaw knows he is in a catbird seat. Clearwire owns licensed spectrum in the 2.495 to 2.690 GHz band and has the second largest spectrum position in this band after Sprint Nextel. Which could prove long time reader Jesse Kopelman right. In response to a previous Clearwire post he wrote: “I think Sprint will end up buying this one eventually, too.” Sprint bought Craig McCaw-backed Nextel. And if that happens, then we will buy Jesse a round of beer.

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