Clearwire CEO Claims 'No Doubts' About WiMax
Clearwire LLC (Nasdaq: CLWR) CEO Ben Wolff raised eyebrows this month when, during a conference call, he said the network infrastructure the company is building would let it move quickly to Long Term Evolution in the future, if it needed to. Was Clearwire, the biggest adopter of the WiMax wireless broadband standard, starting to hedge its bet on the technology?
In an interview a few days later, Wolff said Clearwire has reaffirmed its faith in WiMax. "We're going full speed ahead with WiMax," he said. "It offers a more robust experience, at a more economic price point, than any other technology available today. We have no doubts we made the right decision."
So why address the LTE issue? Wolff said it's the top question he gets asked by investors and analysts, and he wanted to make it clear that Clearwire didn't bet the company on which technology will win. If and when the LTE standard is completed, if a large number of devices arrive with LTE connectivity but no WiMax support, Wolff said Clearwire's all-IP infrastructure and large amount of licensed spectrum will let it add support for LTE to its existing networks.
"It's about the addition of LTE to the mix, and not a switch," Wolff said. "If LTE does take off, and there are devices with LTE and without WiMax, we want to be able to service those customers, too."
WiMax is short for Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access, a moniker created by the industry-led WiMax Forum to push the IEEE's 802.16 wireless broadband standard. The standard promises broadband-quality wireless that can be broadcast 2 to 6 miles from a single tower. The specs for LTE, seen as WiMax's chief rival for the future of wireless broadband, haven't been finalized, though they're mature enough for proto- types. And much debate over which will win.
There are those that even predict a merging of the technologies into a WiMax-LTE superstandard. Michael Seymour, VP of the WiMax unit at Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU), which builds both WiMax and LTE gear for providers, thinks there eventually will be multimode devices with both WiMax and LTE connectivity, perhaps making an either-or question moot. "I think there will be some areas of overlap, and that will be OK," Seymour says.
— Paul Kapustka, InformationWeek