New Clearwire announces 'Clear' brand

It's all clear sailing now for the new Clearwire. Having managed to solidify its merger with Sprint's Xohm business unit and hold on to $3.2 billion in investment money from Comcast, Time Warner, Bright House Networks, Intel and Google in tough economic times, the mobile WiMAX pioneer is ready to go to market with a service branded "Clear."

Clear, said Ben Wolff, Clearwire's CEO, "is a natural choice because it is a simple, commonly used word that has significance as it relates to communications services and, of course, it is part of our corporate name."

Wolff used a brief media conference call to clear up a few items that were outstanding as the new company formed from the fourth generation network operations of Sprint Nextel and the old Clearwire. First, he said, the new Clearwire is taking a lot of money from its investors but it has "very little in common with a joint venture (because) unlike most joint ventures Clearwire is independent from its major corporate shareholders."

Those shareholders will contribute to the company's coffers with cash and will be major wholesale customers but "they do not have the ability to direct the activities of the company nor is their approval required to undertake major business initiatives such as where or when we build our network or future capital raising activities," Wolff said.

Secondly, he said that while committed to WiMAX, Clearwire considers this an open marriage. In other words, if LTE comes to fruition several years down the road it would not necessarily remain monogamous.

"Mobile WiMAX and LTE have a lot in common--far more in common than either of these technologies have with today's 2G or 3G technologies," Wolff said. "Consumers really don't care about the technology."

Apparently, if push came to shove, neither does Clearwire since, according to Wolff, "if it makes sense for us to do so several years from now when LTE becomes commercially available" the carrier will go in two 4G technology directions.

Wolff was a little less clear about how the nationwide 4G rollout will proceed. The first mobile WiMAX market, Sprint's Xohm in Baltimore, will be rebranded as Clear. However, the 46 pre-WiMAX networks now operating under the Clearwire brand in the U.S. will continue to carry that name. The next city to come to market will be Portland, Ore.. where the first customers will come online this month with a full commercial launch early next year. "Several additional markets are in various stages of design, development and construction," Wolff said

These, of course, include existing Sprint markets that have been under way in the planning and development stages.

"At this point one of our most important tasks is to integrate these assets with ours," Wolff said. "We intend to share more details about our network expansion plans early next year after we've had an opportunity to meet with our new board to discuss our new products."

In the meantime, he said, Clearwire will "dedicate most of our focus" to building a common back office system and deploying new markets based on common infrastructure.

For more:
- see this news release

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