Clearwire adds Best Buy as 4G wholesale partner

Clearwire (NASDAQ:CLWR) added retailer Best Buy, via its recently unveiled Best Buy Connect service, to its list of wholesale partners that will use the company's 4G mobile WiMAX network. This marks Clearwire's first wholesale partnership deal with a company that isn't a strategic investor. 

Best Buy launched its Best Buy Connect 3G mobile broadband service July 11, which relies on 3G connectivity from Sprint Nextel's (NYSE:S) CDMA network. The Best Buy offering, which includes Gobi-enabled laptops and netbooks, is being sold at Best Buy's U.S. stores. The retailer will launch its 4G mobile broadband service using Clearwire's mobile WiMAX network in 2011.   

Sprint, Comcast and Time Warner Cable--all strategic Clearwire investors--also resell WiMAX services.

In an interview with FierceWireless, Teresa Elder, Clearwire's president of strategic partnerships and wholesale (and a 2010 Women in Wireless honoree), said the company has been in discussions with Best Buy for some time and that Best Buy is a good fit for Clearwire because it is very customer focused and wants to provide great quality of service to its customers. "Best Buy is about offering customers choice. Some customers want to work with Best Buy directly and have that full service capability. We want to have a mix of partners on our network."

Elder downplayed the fact that Clearwire may be facing another competitor in the 4G wholesale network space. Last week, newcomer LightSquared (which is funded by private equity firm Harbinger Capital Partners, a Fierce 15 2010 winner) announced plans for a nationwide wholesale LTE network with commercial launches starting in 2011. The company said it is already talking to 30 potential wholesale partners for its network.

"No, I don't think the LightSquared deal adds pressure. We have an incredible spectrum position and a 4G network in place in the U.S. today," Elder said.

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