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Clearwire Married to WiMAX for 2 More Years

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clearwireClearwire (s clwr) is locked into WiMAX — and barred from deploying LTE — until late 2011 under terms of a deal with its biggest investor, Intel (s intc). The pact, which was outlined in Clearwire’s most recent 10-Q filing with the SEC and first reported by Unstrung, restricts Clearwire from offering any non-WiMAX technology through Nov. 28, 2011. But that’s not the only roadblock preventing the beleaguered company from pursuing LTE: Clearwire said it would rack up significant costs if it opted to deploy other technologies, even if those alternative technologies “would be technologically superior or more cost effective” than WiMAX.

Such comments help to explain the company’s unwavering allegiance to WiMAX — at least in the near term. But the sentiment Clearwire is expressing is unusually conservative, even for an SEC filing, especially when it comes to describing the state of the market for WiMAX vendors:

“While we have deployed mobile WiMAX networks in four markets, we cannot assure you that commercial quantities of mobile WiMAX equipment and subscriber devices that meet our requirements will continue to be available on the schedule we expect, or at all, or that vendors will continue to develop and produce mobile WiMAX equipment and subscriber devices in the long term, which may require us to deploy alternative technologies.”

But as Stacey has pointed out, the differences between WiMAX and LTE aren’t as great some might think, so some of Clearwire’s infrastructure might be upgradable to LTE for a reasonably affordable cost. And while WiMAX seems to have a bright future in emerging markets, the technology in North America is likely to succeed as a complementary offering to LTE more than as a head-to-head competitor. Regardless, for at least the next two years, it looks as if Clearwire is committed solely to WiMAX.

11 Responses to “Clearwire Married to WiMAX for 2 More Years”

  1. There are far more similarities between WiMAX and LTE than differences (adaptive modulation, OFDM, MIMO, etc). The salient/practical difference is TDD operation (rather than FDD). WiMAX vendors appear to be leveraging these similarities by launching LTE programs (ex – CLWR has the opportunity to secure a large set of broadband subscribers in the next several years. The performances reported in cities like Portland (3 M down, .5 M up) indicate performance which is the same as many home broadband services – but – you can take it with you….

    John Donovan’s speech at CTIA yesterday basically confirmed that there won’t even be “green shoots” in LTE until 2011; that is – there are no LTE based devices until then. the middle of the S curve for adoption appears to be past 2020 as well.

    BTW – metricom used LE spectrum, mesh technology (hence “ricochet”), and a proprietary waveform. the “old” clearwire used NextNet technology and perhaps that’s the confusion – that also had a large PA in the subscriber unit and a proprietary waveform.