CTIA: McCaw Tilts at Windmills Again

SAN FRANCISCO -- CTIA Wireless IT & Entertainment -- Wireless pioneer and Clearwire LLC (Nasdaq: CLWR) chairman Craig McCaw said that better regulation of 2.5GHz by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is allowing the upstart WiMax venture to take on much larger rivals such as AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) and Verizon Wireless in the wireless broadband game.

"Our country allows innovation," McCaw told the crowd at the Moscone Center today. "The repurposing of 2.5GHz spectrum has given that opportunity to us, Don Quixote, to tilt at another set of windmills."

McCaw was comparing the situation to the FCC of 25 years ago at the birth of McCaw Cellular and wireless communications in the U.S., claiming that the agency threw the cellular industry "out to the dogs" while playing favorites with the dominant wireline carrier, AT&T, which he described as being like "another branch of government" at the time.

Regulation is much better now, he said. "They were so slow with cellular, I think for political reasons."

It was one of the few references that McCaw made to his work at Clearwire. His presentation was largely a look back at 25 years of cellular communications.

Of course, AT&T, while no longer the monolithic Ma Bell of yore, is still a thorn in McCaw's side. The operator is trying to get the FCC to review and reject the spectrum terms of the "new" Clearwire deal. McCaw didn't mention that in his talk. (See Max on, Max off.) McCaw did, however, emphasize the role of data in the next generation of wireless, explaining how it helped Clearwire choose WiMax. He said that only now are carriers beginning to understand wireless data services: "You've got to get it right before it's viral, and one thing about data: It hasn't been right. Hasn't been right for operators, hasn't been right for customers."

Clearwire's time division duplex (TDD) technology will allow "rich data" for users and spectral efficiency for the operator, McCaw says, as it uses one channel for broadcast, compared to two channel frequency division duplex (FDD) networks that are used today and will be carried over to long-term evolution (LTE) deployments.

"Why take up half your spectrum when you're downloading a movie?" he says, while acknowledging that WiMax and LTE are "brother and sister" technologies.

— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Unstrung

Pete Baldwin 12/5/2012 | 3:32:35 PM
re: CTIA: McCaw Tilts at Windmills Again I'll admit I haven't read Cervantes. But wasn't Don Quixote basically insane, and didn't he *lose* those windmill battles?
joset01 12/5/2012 | 3:32:34 PM
re: CTIA: McCaw Tilts at Windmills Again Yeah, McCaw was having fun as far as I could, a lot of the banter was pretty tongue-in-cheek, self-depreciating etc.

Also, you haven't read Cervantes? For shame!

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