Clearwire COO sees LTE switch on horizon, but details cloudy

Clearwire (NASDAQ:CLWR) COO Erik Prusch said the company will eventually switch to LTE network technology, but declined to say when the switch will happen--and warned the plans are not definite.

"WiMAX to date has been a very good technology choice for us," he said in an interview with Cnet "We were able to take advantage of the speed to market before LTE was even a glimmer in anyone's eye. But we recognize the ecosystem in the U.S. will be larger for LTE than WiMAX, so we are conscious of that."

Clearwire has said any further announcement about the LTE trials it has been conducting will be made in conjunction with Clearwire's wholesale customers. Prusch said LTE technology and the ecosystem need to mature before Clearwire adopts LTE.

Clearwire's eventual move to LTE could include a partnership with Sprint Nextel (NYSE:S). Speculation has centered on the possibility that Sprint will launch LTE service via the new, multi-mode base stations it is deploying as part of its Network Vision project, and that Clearwire will enter into a network-sharing deal with Sprint. Sprint CEO Dan Hesse said Network Vision will make it possible for the company to inexpensively host other carriers' traffic on its network--including Clearwire's. "It also has been reported that there are some discussions between Clearwire and Sprint about the potential of Sprint hosting some spectrum," Hesse said this week at an investor conference. "That's a potential that could happen. It's more economical for Clearwire to host it vs. building a separate network." Sprint executives have said the carrier will provide additional details on its possible move to LTE sometime later this year.

In his interview with Cnet, Clearwire's Prusch also said he is confident the company can reach profitability, despite funding challenges and growing competition from carriers deploying LTE.

Prusch, who was formerly Clearwire's CFO, said the company's strategy for this year and beyond remains in flux, but that the company is looking for more funding and revenue from subscribers to fund its network buildout. Clearwire currently covers around 130 million POPs and counts around 6 million subscribers.

For more:
- see this Cnet article

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