Clearwire plays capacity card
As firm sets out its stall for wholesale customers, it says it will be cheaper for operators to partner than build their own LTE
Published: 25 March, 2012
With LightSquared on hold and Dish waiting for approval, Clearwire is keen to push its credentials as the most viable alternative to the big two in 4G services - even though its new LTE network will not be operational until next year. Its trump card, of course, is its huge spectrum capacity - well over 100MHz in most markets and 160MHz in the top 100 - and CFO Hope Cochran told an investor conference: "People are looking for that capacity, and there's not that many places to go."
To demonstrate the benefits of huge capacity - even with the challenges of the high frequency 2.5GHz band where Clearwire's network, currently WiMAX, lives - Cochran said that traffic on the current system had grown more than sevenfold last year, partly because of new customers but mainly because of increased data usage by existing subscribers. Clearwire has previously made much of its ability to stick to unlimited data plans for longer than its rivals because of the capacity in its network.
The company plans to build out TD-LTE over the coming year in the highest traffic areas of its WiMAX footprint, to serve its chief MVNO and investor Sprint and, it hopes, a wide range of other wholesale clients. It recently signed up Leap for LTE services too, even though it lost three cablecos, which were using its WiMAX services, to Verizon.
"We try to hit that sweet spot where it's less expensive to roam with us" than to build out more capacity, Cochran said. "I only need a small market share for my economic model to work, and that's what I'm focused on."
Clearwire plans to have its first 5,000 TD-LTE base stations activated in mid-2013 and then aims to extend the network to a total of 8,000 sites, about half of the 16,000 deployed for its WiMAX service, though it will need to raise additional funding to hit that target.