Clearwire: No LTE switch until 2012 at the earliest

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Clearwire (NASDAQ:CLWR) now has more flexibility to switch its wireless technology choice from mobile WiMAX to LTE, but even if it decides to switch, the company will not do so until 2012 at the earliest, according to Clearwire's chief executive.

In an interview with CNet, Clearwire CEO Bill Morrow elaborated on the recently updated agreement between Clearwire and Intel. The previous agreement had locked Clearwire into using WiMAX until the end of 2011 or early 2012. Morrow said that market has since changed, and the two parties decided to allow the deal to be terminated with 30 days notice. However, that does not mean Clearwire is in a hurry to ditch WiMAX.

"No we haven't exercised that right, and I don't see the need for us to anytime soon," he said in response to a question about the company's plans. "We won't be deploying LTE anytime soon and definitely not before 2012. But it does give us greater flexibility."

Morrow also touched on some hot-button issues for the company. He said Clearwire is interested in making T-Mobile USA a wholesale customer on its network and called into question the benefits of T-Mobile's HSPA+ network upgrade. "But as a competitor, we know that the HSPA+ cost structure is not sustainable for scalable mobile broadband services," he said. "So HSPA is a Band-Aid for carriers who are using it until they get to a full IP network, which will change the cost structure." T-Mobile has been rumored to be in discussions with the likes of Clearwire, MetroPCS and Harbinger Capital Partners for a 4G network teaming.

Additionally, Morrow said he is not worried about Verizon Wireless' (NYSE:VZ) impending LTE network launch. Verizon plans to launch 25-30 commercial markets in the fourth quarter, covering 100 million POPs. "It will help build more awareness of the service," he said. "People will hear 4G, 4G, 4G, and that's good for us. It's really healthy for the industry and healthy for Clearwire. We've been expecting the competition, and we've worked that into our numbers." Clearwire expects to have 80 mobile WiMAX markets launched by year-end, covering 120 million POPs. Morrow also said that he thinks Clearwire's spectrum position gives it a distinct advantage.

For more:
- see this CNet article

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