Ask some WiMAX vendors whether they were sad to see Sprint Nextel and Clearwire end their WiMAX pact, and they'll say no. While analysts predict the termination of the deal will result in fewer WiMAX networks being built in 2008 and will likely slow down Clearwire's transition to building WiMAX networks, vendors I talked to say their goal of rolling out a mobile WiMAX network to 100 million people by the end of 2008 was overly optimistic.
"Personally, I had some doubts. That's an awful lot in site acquisition," said an executive at one WiMAX vendor making a big push in the U.S. market. "It didn't change the real deployment model."
If anything, the failed partnership gives vendors a shot at Clearwire, said the executive, who doesn't want to irritate Clearwire by saying it publicly. Because of the partnership with Sprint, it was Clearwire's intention to follow in Sprint's footsteps by doing using the same vendors as Sprint. That strategy may now be in question and leave the door open for alternative vendors, especially since the big guns have been putting all of their efforts into winning business with Sprint.
Of course, those vendors keen on winning some business in the U.S. could offer some favorable financing to Clearwire. Meanwhile, Clearwire is said to be holding discussions with parties that might include Intel, Comcast and Google about a direct partnership. The upcoming 700 MHz auction could be a hindrance to those discussions as the types of companies Clearwire is talking to are also taking a keen interest in bidding. The Wall Street Journal reported on Friday that Google may be preparing a go-it-alone bid strategy in the auction. As one WiMAX vendor told me: "Almost everyone wants to bid in the 700 MHz auction."
We'll find out in January who puts their money where their mouth is. In the meantime, it seems clear to me that Clearwire is ripe for the picking.--Lynnette
P.S. This Thursday is Thanksgiving in the U.S., and FierceBroadband Wireless will be taking a publishing holiday. We will see you back here next Monday. Enjoy the holiday!