Analyst: Clearwire Will Launch Nine in '09

Long-term WiMax watcher ThinkEquity LLC is predicting that Clearwire LLC (Nasdaq: CLWR) will launch a total of nine markets this year, suggesting "a slower revenue ramp and lower levels of cash burn than had the original plans gone forward."

Ahead of the Kirkland, Wash.-based operator's launch of its first "Clear" mobile WiMax market in Portland, Ore., today, ThinkEquity has tried to develop a "new model" for how Clearwire will evolve this year. (See Clearwire Sets Portland WiMax Launch.)

"Clearwire is unquestionably attempting to pull off a truly massive undertaking: building a national mobile network without fully committed funding in competition with at least 2 potent competitors using a radical new technology –- as a publicly-held company subject to quarterly scrutiny," analyst Eric Kainer writes in the report. "Success to date speaks to the capability of the assembled team and, as we have modeled, we expect several more years of hard work before reaching cash-flow breakeven."

The analyst firm is now projecting that Clearwire will have to raise the additional $3 billion it has already said it will need for WiMax deployment by July 2010, which should then be "sufficient to last through to cash-flow breakeven in 2014."

The firm is anticipating that Clearwire will launch nine markets in total in 2009. Portland will obviously be the first. ThinkEquity is predicting that another launch will follow late in the second quarter, followed by two more networks in summer and fall, and five markets in the last three months of 2009.

Following the initial deployment in Portland, Clearwire, so far, has indicated plans to launch WiMax service in Atlanta, Las Vegas, and Grand Rapids, Mich. There is now some speculation that Chicago could be next on the list, but Clearwire says it is still discussing deployment plans with its board. (See Clearwire Cloudy on Chicago.)

— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Unstrung

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