Why you need to watch him:
Clearwire CEO Ben Wolff has a big challenge ahead of him. Armed with the $3.2 billion investment from Intel, Google and cable operators Comcast, Time Warner and Bright House Networks, this savvy CEO has to build out a nationwide WiMAX network in a slumping economy and launch mobile broadband services that rival DSL and cable speeds without alienating some of its cable system partners.
Although Clearwire is busy building its network, it will be some time before it achieves a comprehensive footprint. The company estimates it will be in the top 200 markets in 2011 (if its market rollout goes as planned). That means customers will probably need dual-mode devices in the short-term so they can roam to other networks such as EV-DO. Wolff and his team at Clearwire will need to push manufacturers to make sure those dual-mode devices are launched and available to consumers.
And then there's the problem of more money. While it may seem as if Clearwire is flush with its $3.2 billion investment capital, the company has said that it will need an additional $2 billion to $2.3 billion in investment in the 2010 time frame to reach positive cash flow. It may be tough to dig up an extra $2 billion in this tough economic climate.
Nevertheless, Wolff appears to be able to deftly navigate difficult situations--he helped mastermind the complex deal announced last May between Sprint, Clearwire, Intel, Google and others to create the "new Clearwire." Let's see if he can keep true to that vision.