Clearwire net additions soar to 87K in Q4

Clearwire's aggressive WiMAX deployment schedule paid off. During the fourth quarter, the company added 87,000 net new subscribers, bringing its total subscriber base to 688,000. The number of quarterly net adds is the largest in the company's history.

Of those, 46,000 were customers from Clearwire's wholesale partners, which include Sprint, Comcast and Time Warner Cable. With early indications that the company's wholesale strategy is working, CEO Bill Morrow told investors on the company's earnings call this morning that he envisions expanding the wholesale channel by adding partners that are ISPs, fixed-line operators, retailers and consumer electronics companies.

Here's a breakdown of the other key metrics from Clearwire's quarter:

Subscribers: Total fourth quarter subscribers were 688,000 (up from 475,000 at the end of the fourth quarter of 2008), which includes 642,000 retail customers and 46,000 wholesale subscribers from Comcast, Sprint and Time Warner Cable. The total number of customers on Clearwire's mobile WiMAX service were 438,000, with the remaining on the carrier's pre-WiMAX service.

Revenue: 2009 revenue increased 19 percent to $274.5 million. The company raised $4.3 billion, including $1.6 billion in additional financial support from strategic investors.

ARPU: Average revenue per user was $39.86, an increase of $0.16 cents from the $39.70 ARPU in fourth quarter 2008.

Churn: Churn was 3.1 percent for the year and 3.6 percent for the quarter. Clearwire executives said the higher churn rate was due to the transition of customers in the carrier's pre-WiMAX markets, and they predicted that once the markets are fully converted they will have a lower churn rate.

Market buildout: Clearwire said it plans to launch several new markets in 2010. Houston will be the first to go live in the next few weeks. Other planned launches this year include New York City, San Francisco, Boston, Washington, D.C., Denver, Minneapolis and Kansas City.

Devices: The company has more than 30 embedded devices available, including netbook and notebook computers.

Towers: In 2009 the company had 5,000 towers. In 2010 and 2011 it plans to increase its towers to 20,000 total.

For more:
- see this WSJ article (sub. req.)
- see this release

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