Clearwire Considering WiMax Polygamy

Clearwire LLC (Nasdaq: CLWR) made it clear that it considers itself to be in the driving seat when picking vendors for its WiMax radio access network and that it will likely take on more partners as it deploys mobile broadband in the U.S. over the next few years.

Clearwire has reportedly been looking to fill out its roster of base-station vendors recently. On a conference call with its new IP partner, Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO), this morning, Clearwire's chief strategy officer, Scott Richardson, said that the company is taking a flexible approach to its radio access network (RAN) plans but that in this economic environment any vendor would be "happy to have our business."

"We're considering multiple partners on the access side," Richardson told assorted tech hacks and industry analysts on the conference call.

The Kirkland, Wash.-based carrier is "still buying" from announced RAN partners Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT) and Samsung Corp. but Richardson made it plain on the call that Clearwire is talking to other vendors, too. He said that Nokia Corp. (NYSE: NOK) is "not necessarily" out of the running for a slice of the RAN pie. Richardson didn't rule out Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. either, although he didn't explictly talk about any deal with them on the call. (See Huawei's Clearwire Ride?)

Richardson said that Clearwire is also planning to add smaller radio infrastructure to its RAN checklist over time. He said Clearwire will pick out vendors for "picocells, microcells, and distributed antenna" technology when the time comes.

These smaller radio elements help to extend radio coverage and are easier to deploy in dense network topologies like cities. The 2.5 GHz spectrum footprint that Clearwire has lends itself to -- some would say requires -- a distributed approach, with smaller cells used to bolster urban and in-building coverage.

IP freely
Richardson says that whatever network elements Clearwire buys will have to "plug-and-play" with an IP network core that is largely going to be supplied by Cisco, although Richardson stressed that even Cisco isn't likely to be a 100 percent supplier for the core.

So far, the networking giant is going to provide IP routers, home agents, and firewall technology. Richardson strongly hinted that the partnership could grow well beyond that over time, however.

"They're a potential supplier for all of the network," he said.

Neither Clearwire nor Cisco would say anything much about the financial terms of the deal or how long it would take to deploy the IP core network. Richardson did allow that the agreement was "multiyear" in its scope.

Cloaking devices
Cisco, meanwhile, was pretty tight-lipped on specific device details. So far, the firm has said it will introduce its first WiMax device by the end of the year and is working on converged WiMax and WiFi gadgets through its Linksys consumer division.

On the call, Unstrung asked if Cisco was working on any specific devices, such as home gateways, femtocells, or dualmode air-cards. (See Cisco WiMax Devices?)

"We're not providing any details at this time," said Suraj Shetty, vice president of Worldwide Service Provider Marketing for Cisco.

— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Unstrung

Be the first to post a comment regarding this story.
Sign In