Clearwire (NASDAQ:CLWR) and Sprint Nextel (NYSE:S) at long last gave the launch timeline for three of their largest WiMAX markets: Los Angeles, New York City and San Francisco. The announcement comes amid growing uncertainty about Clearwire's future plans as well as Verizon Wireless' (NYSE:VZ) impending LTE launch.
Sprint and Clearwire said they will launch WiMAX service in New York Nov. 1, in Los Angeles Dec. 1 and in San Francisco in late December. Time Warner Cable also will launch its own branded service in Yew York, and Comcast will launch its service in San Francisco. Both companies are investors in and wholesale partners of Clearwire. Sprint, which markets its services under the Sprint 4G brand, owns 54 percent of Clearwire.
The markets have been on Clearwire's roadmap for months, but were pushed to the end of the company's deployment schedule because of logistical issues. Clearwire CTO John Saw told FierceWirless earlier this month, for instance, that the company had to deal with 350 separate jurisdictions in New York. The company has been testing in these markets--major media hubs with lots of potential users--for the past several months.
Clearwire, which currently counts 56 mobile WiMAX markets, has repeatedly said it is on track to cover 120 million POPs by the end of the year. However, the company has delayed the launch of its Clear-branded WiMAX service in Denver, and analysts and dealers have said that Clearwire may also delay its launch in Miami.
While Clearwire and Sprint have trumpeted their 4G lead on rivals, the companies' time-to-market advantage soon will be narrowed significantly. Verizon plans to launch LTE in 38 markets--including Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco--and at 60 airports before the end of the year. MetroPCS (NASDAQ:PCS) has launched its own LTE service in Dallas and Las Vegas.
Clearwire's business remains in a bit of flux. The carrier plans to test LTE network technology, it is reportedly conducting an auction of some of its unneeded spectrum, it has had negotiations with T-Mobile USA for a possible deal of some kind, and has come under pressure for expanding its direct retail sales channel.
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