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The Wall Street Journal reports the deal for a joint mobile WiMax network is off between Sprint Nextel, Clearwire: That doesn’t mean either company is abandoning plans, nor that the two won’t forge a new deal. But with the departure of Sprint’s head due to a lack of confidence in his initiatives, it’s hard to see how an interim CEO could sign off on something that might last for years or even decades.
The deal between the two firms was for them to use complementary spectrum holdings and carry out spectrum swaps to create nonoverlapping network buildouts that would cover the whole country. Sprint would also allow Clearwire to resell its 3G EVDO network, a critical stage in building a roaming business audience. The complementary buildout would prevent double building, and provide the full set of frequencies in each market needed to ensure the highest data rates.
The Journal reports that some of Clearwire’s partners—Intel, Motorola, and Samsung—might “try to inject financing into Clearwire” to keep the WiMax network buildout on track. Intel and Motorola previously put in hundreds of millions.
The Wall Street Journal reports that Sprint Nextel and Clearwire may agree to allow roaming by their customers across each other’s network: This could dramatically improve the chances for mobile WiMax to take off, as it would ensure that each firm’s customers didn’t hit huge service holes in areas in which their provider lacked licenses.
Sprint clearly retains a strong lead in the total amount of spectrum held—at one time, valued at 85 percent of the available licenses—while Clearwire has done a good job in extending its geographic reach. The Journal says the two firms might create a joint venture to pool assets, or might swap spectrum holdings in some markets.
Clearwire has only one technology in its arsenal. Sprint said at its 4G network launch that it would offer adapters for mobile users that would support both 3G EVDO and mobile WiMax. That gave them a fallback position for their business traveler market.
The FCC required AT&T to sell off 2.5 GHz spectrum as part of its acquisition of BellSouth: Clearwire gets the prize spectrum, which probably also brings it into a closer relationship with AT&T. The deal is for $300m in cash. The 2.5 GHz spectrum licenses and leases were owned by BellSouth across its nine-state territory. The Seattle Times reports that Clearwire will boost its spectrum holdings with this purchase by 14.2 percent, and revised its estimate of population covered to 214m, up from about 200m just a few weeks ago. Carol Ellison at MuniWireless.com reminds us that Clearwire founder Craig McCaw sold AT&T a pile of cellular spectrum in 1994 for $13b, making his first fortune.
Seattle-based Speakeasy sheds early fixed WiMax project: Speakeasy is a national DSL and dial-up ISP that has moved heavily in VoIP, pushing VoIP and broadband over naked DSL (no phone line required) service. They installed some fixed WiMax in downtown Seattle two years ago with a beautiful launch I attended up at the top of the Space Needle. But things didn’t go as planned: they were unfortunately naive enough to believe that their customers could self-install receivers. Tricia Duryee at The Seattle Times reports that the VoIP rollout was seen as more strategically important—I have two Speakeasy VoIP lines myself—and thus the wireless unit needed to be off the table. Speakeasy stopped promoting the service some time ago, and likely has few customers.
Towerstream gets an easy entree into a new market, and ostensibly will be inheriting a variety of rooftop leases and a partner for promoting the service locally. While Speakeasy offers T-1 and DSL service for business, they can certainly gain from working with Towerstream to court businesses with high-bandwidth needs more aggressively to which they can market VoIP and other packages.
Speakeasy has customers nationally, so this partnership could be an aid to Towerstream in customer acquisition outside Seattle as well.
The name of the service, the headline on this article, tells the whole story: AOL may be be part of a giant conglomerate that owns a cable service, which gives it an edge in having alternative methods to dial-up by which to offer Internet service and its own mash-up of email, newsgroups, and news sites to consumers. However, Roadrunner has a finite reach, and just as EarthLink must diversify into the fourth approach (after phone, cable, and powerline), so, too, must AOL.
The Clearwire-powered AOL broadband wireless offering will launch in Dayton Beach and Jacksonville, Florida, and Stockton and Modesto in California, The Seattle Times reports. This is a reseller arrangement rather than new wireless rollouts. The AOL/Clearwire package will cost as little as $25.90, the same as AOL’s unlimited dial-up service.
Clearwire’s speed isn’t up to DSL/cable rates, or even bidirectionally as fast as most of the paid metro-scale Wi-Fi plans or deployments. But it’s still a high multiple of dial-up, and it frees up a phone line or allows a second line to be cancelled.
Qualcomm has signed with Soma the first licensing deal for its portfolio of what it claims are patents covering WiMax technology: My good friend and colleague Nancy Gohring writes for IDG News Service that Qualcomm acquired these patents as part of its purchase of Flarion Technologies. Flarion has pursued broadband wireless via a standard developing in 802.20 (mobile broadband wireless access), while WiMax emerged out of the 802.16 working group (broadband wireless access). Mobility was inserted into WiMax via 802.16e (now 802.16-2005), which covers fixed, nomadic/portable, and mobile broadband.
Qualcomm wouldn’t comment for the story, but analysts expect this unnecessary public announcement was a shot across the bow to signal their intent. Alvarion says in this report that they and other industry leaders believe Qualcomm’s patents aren’t relevant to WiMax.
Covad was rumored to be unveiling California-based pre-WiMax service this week: Instead, it seems, they acquired NextWeb, a firm that offers service to 3,000 businesses in California and Nevada, including competitive markets like San Francisco and Los Angeles. The AP story says that NextWeb’s service is available in 175 cities and has a reach of 200,000 businesses within its coverage area.
These 3,000 businesses aren’t valued at much: the entire deal is $23 million with the assumption of $1.7 million in debt; it pays out just $4 million in cash. That means the average revenue from each of these customers must be tiny or the revenue-to-acquisition price multiple is tiny. At one-times-cash-flow, each customer would be worth just $7,000 per year on average. I’m surprised at the valuation.
SkyPilot has three announcements today: The company has, since its inception, focused on unlicensed bands using somewhat proprietary technology that’s similar to Wi-Fi but with tweaks to allow it to work in mesh and other configurations. They’ve been trying to solve the final mile problem well in advance of WiMax’s arrival and at a much lower price point than competitors.
Their announcements today signal their move into licensed and unlicensed WiMax using Fujitsu chips at some point in the future; development of hardware to use the 4.9 GHz US public and international broad use band; and their equipment will be used by MetroFi for $50,000 per square mile metropolitan deployments.
Each of these moves would be significant for a company that’s been in business several years without a major win. Technically, their products have always seemed very interesting and well developed to me. But because of their limited portfolio and no deployments, it was a hard sell.
Bell Canada is investing $100 million in Clearwire and will also deliver voice over IP services to Clearwire: Bell Canada is also to become a shareholder in NR Communications, a partner in Inukshuk, a partnership that is deploying broadband wireless services in Canada. Bell Canada will be Clearwire’s preferred voice over IP supplier around the globe. While Clearwire hasn’t exactly been forthcoming with where else it has licenses beyond the United States, the company has an operation in Ireland and is rumored to have licenses in Denmark, Bulgaria, and Belgium.
This is a coup for Bell Canada, especially if Clearwire succeeds in building networks around the globe. This also tips Clearwire’s hand a bit as it makes it clear that the company is after voice services.
SimbaNet, an operator in Kenya, is building a network using equipmet from Cambridge Broadband: It sounds like SimbaNet uses a wide variety of technologies to deliver broadband services to customers. Cambridge is a member of the WiMax Forum.
Alcatel will sell Alvarion gear with its own label (the press release isn’t posted yet but should be some time soon): This news follows another recent announcement from Alvarion that Lucent will integrate Alvarion’s BreezeMax equipment into its portfolio. Interestingly, the Alcatel announcement doesn’t specifically mention which Alvarion products it will OEM, but refers to Alvarion’s “WiMax-ready” solution. BreezeMax is the line that Alvarion typically touts as being based on WiMax.
At the same time, Alcatel said it will run pilot deployments for TDF, a French broadcast service provider, and RATP, the Paris public transport agency.
Alvarion is busy in France. It is also supplying equipment for Altitude Telecom, an operator that owns a nationwide 3.5 Ghz license in France.
Adaptix is supplying a broadband wireless network that will cover the ShiJinShan area of China: Adaptix, which refers to the system as “pre-WiMax,” said the network will be built on a cellular architecture for full coverage of the area. Adaptix also says this will be the first “pre-WiMax” system in China, although I suspect that’s debatable. I’m not entirely clear how close this network is to WiMax given that the press release also refers to it as a wireless mobile broadband network platform, and as we all know, WiMax isn’t yet mobile.
Verizon Avenue has bought a whopping 2,3000 fixed wireless broadband units from Alvarion for networks it will build on military bases: The networks will cover five military communities in Monterey, Calif. In addition to the BreezeAccess gear which will make up the network, Verizon will also use Alvarion’s BreezeNet point-to-point radios to backhaul the network.
It appears to me that Alvarion is stretching a bit in its efforts to drop the WiMax name in this announcement. The press release notes that BreezeAccess is base on OFDM, the basis for WiMax. While that’s true, plenty of broadband wireless equipment has been based on OFDM and it still bears little resemblance to WiMax. Alarion’s BreezeMax equipment is the gear that was designed to comply with WiMax and is likely closer to WiMax than BreezeAccess. According to an Alvarion press representative, BreezeAccess was built for the unlicensed applications and is commonly used in rural deployments.
Verizon Avenue seems to have become a believer in broadband wireless. The company’s mission is to bring access to rural markets an multi-dwelling units. Verizon Avenue used Alvarion gear to build a broadband wireless trial in a small town in Virginia.