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Clearwire, some hot air leaking

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What a difference a weekend makes: last week Clearwire was toast of the town, and today its stock went tumbling down -about 9.4% before making a slight recovery towards end of the day. It is going to be the story with this stock, at least for near foreseeable future.

The next 24 months are rocky for the company. According to some street estimates, the company is going to have revenues of about $148.9 million in 2007, and $334 million in 2008, which is great growth, except the losses are going to increase equally fast – $273 million and $390 respectively.

Reminds me of another company that went public last year with much fanfare. Ted Tobiason, Managing Director with Deutsche Bank Securities who tracks the IPO market in a note to his clients noted:

The decent pricing but muted aftermarket performance suggests that the IPO market has mellowed a bit from its dramatic pricings and aftermarket performance of late. Certainly company specific issues affected the aftermarket performance including the difficulty investors had valuing a company with enormous losses. There were also questions about the technology and the inevitible jokes about “pre-mature WiMax”.

Nevertheless, I want these guys to succeed, if only to get some competition in the market. The consumers seem to want their service. Tobiason in his note writes:

On their roadshow they noted that 50% of the time they get 10% of any market they enter within the first year. They also said they are growing faster than any previous McCaw company. That is a serious concern to incumbent players.

9 Responses to “Clearwire, some hot air leaking”

  1. Dennis C. Evans

    The approximate 10db FSL advantage of 750 MHz over 2.4 GHz only allows a quadrupling [optimistically] of user distance, even assuming a better Noise Figure.

    The limiting factor is still the 100 Milliwatts from a unity gain laptop and its battery.

    Since a single wet tree in the path has 10db of added loss, as you increase the distance the tree probably goes up.

    Those familiar with 800 MHz Metro/Fire Police System recognize that numerous remote receivers or vehicle repeaters and small zone control are necessary for their handie talkies to function.

  2. Jesse Kopelman

    700 MHz is overvalued by those unfamiliar with the realities of building wireless networks. In the heavily populated parts of the US, that are the profit centers for big wireless, it is not feasible to put up the giant towers that you need to take advantage of the propagation advantage of lower frequencies. There is also the issue of not a lot of spectrum being available at lower frequencies and bit/Hz not scaling perfectly with carrier to noise. In other words, if I’m covering a big city, I’d rather have 100 MHz @ 2.6 GHz than 10 MHz @ 700 MHz. 700 MHz is a good fit for low user density networks like rural consumer or public safety only, but it is far from a pancea.

  3. Charlie Sierra

    Yeah, perhaps Clearwire really means “Vonage” in WiMAX-ian.

    The best (and perhaps only) threat to the axis of communications evil (ie. MSOs + RBOCs) is the collaboration of content companies looking to light up the 700mhz white space.

    I dont think it will happen because Wall Street is very powerful and they’ve already stuffed the MSOs and RBOCs with loads of debt (kinda like the do to consumers) and if those issues go sour, then nobody will trust them vis-a-vis future issues.

  4. Hmmm what did some of us say last week on your previous Clearwire post….

    Clearwire is analogous to XO Communications version 2 and Craig McCaw is laughing all the way to the bank again along with investment scam artists at Merrill Lynch, JP Morgan and Morgan Stanley.
    km4 on March 8th, 2007 at 4:49 PM

  5. okay rob, it is a manner of speaking thing – but the point is exactly what you are making – better than me – and i think they are going to have some trouble when the 3G is going to roll out. despite reservations about incumbents, the simplicity of 3G wireless broadband is going to eat into Clearwire’s growth prospects.

  6. “According to some street estimates, the company is going to have revenues of about $148.9 million in 2007, and $334 million in 2008, which is great growth, except the losses are going to increase equally fast – $273 million and $390 respectively.”

    Actually, those losses aren’t increasing “equally fast”. The revenues are increasing at roughtly 125% year over year, while the losses are mounting at a 43% pace.

    Still, it’s telling that they don’t anticipate reaching any sort of scale that will reduce their losses, and I’d have to think that the high cost of the hardware itself is partially to blame. When you can’t scale, it causes problems. Another factor stifling growth is the lack of a PC Card option … who wants to carry that giant box around with them everywhere?