Clearwire Is a WiMax Company (For Now)

CHICAGO -- Clearwire LLC (Nasdaq: CLWR) will remain a WiMax operator for "the foreseeable future," CEO Bill Morrow told the packed house watching his 4G World keynote here Wednesday, but the telecom veteran didn't rule out using LTE or any other new technology to provide wireless broadband over time.

“We are WiMax technology company that’s in deployment today; it is going to be that way for the foreseeable future," Morrow said.

"But we’re also a consumer technology company... If a good technology comes along, I can bolt that to my towers," he added. "Do I believe that’s tomorrow, or the next year, or the year after? No, but we’re ready."

Morrow's clarification was in response to his own comments to Dow Jones yesterday. The CEO once again raised the possibility of Clearwire using Long Term Evolution (LTE), which naturally led to speculation about the possibility of Clearwire phasing out WiMax. In actual fact, it would relatively easy for the company to run both. (See Clearwire Testing in Silicon Valley as LTE Looms.)

The big boss also dealt with the other key issue bugging Clearwire watchers right now. Will the Kirkland, Wash.-based operator be able to get more funding when its $2.5 billion cash reverse runs out?

"We’re very confident that there's enough interest in the firm... I believe the money is there," Morrow said.

Certainly, Morrow had marshaled the big guns from Clearwire's current partners to make video appearances during his presentation proper. Google (Nasdaq: GOOG)'s Eric Schmidt, Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC)'s executive vice president Sean Maloney, Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO)'s CEO John Chambers and Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S)'s CEO Dan Hesse all popped up the big screens during the presentation.

Morrow was mainly concerned with addressing the question of how carriers -- and others -- can support a world where users download tens of gigabytes, rather than megabytes, over wireless connections for the bulk of his time in the spotlight.

"Let’s get the technology to where its not an issue," he said.

Beyond the blue skies, however, Morrow did offer one clue as to how Clearwire's wireless infrastructure might evolve next. "Pico is going to play a big role for us in the future," he said.

Picocells are much smaller cell sites than the large macro sites; they tend to cover areas like a city block, convention center or business offices. They can be used indoors or out, but are often dedicated to improving in-building coverage in densely populated areas.

None of Clearwire's currently announced suppliers have yet introduced a WiMax picocell. Femtocell silicon vendor Picochip has a reference design, however, and ZyXEL Communications Corp. has worked on a picocell using the technology.

— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Unstrung

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