Clearwire (NASDAQ:CLWR) CEO and President Erik Prusch said the carrier would announce its TD-LTE equipment suppliers sometime in the second half of this year, likely in the third quarter.
Clearwire has said it will light up on 5,000 TD-LTE base stations by June 2013. Then, according to Prusch, Clearwire will increase that number to 8,000 "sometime thereafter." The buildout will occur mainly in dense urban areas in top markets where Clearwire already offers WiMAX service (New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago and Seattle are the markets Clearwire has named for LTE). Clearwire's current WiMAX network covers 120 million POPs and comprises around 16,000 towers.
It's unclear which vendors will supply network equipment to Clearwire, but Ericsson (NASDAQ:ERIC) is likely a lead candidate. Clearwire outsourced its network operations to Ericsson in May 2011, following Sprint Nextel's (NYSE:S) lead. Sprint inked a $5 billion, seven-year outsourcing deal with Ericsson in July 2009. Ericsson has also supplied LTE to virtually all of the nation's major carriers.
Clearwire has also said it would engage in vendor financing in order to fund its LTE buildout. Prusch said Clearwire likely would announce its vendor financing details when it announces its LTE equipment suppliers.
Speaking Wednesday at the 40th Annual J.P. Morgan Global Technology, Media and Telecom Conference, Prusch said Clearwire's LTE deployment is a much more "intricate process" than its WiMAX buildout. He said the carrier is carefully selecting which of its existing WiMAX sites will be upgraded to LTE, in consultation with wholesale customer Sprint, in order for Clearwire to maximize its return on investment. Prusch said that, in many cases, workers would only need to swap out a card and install a software upgrade to add LTE to Clearwire's cell sites, rather than installing a completely new antenna.
"That is all going as planned," Prusch said of Clearwire's LTE buildout.
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