x
4G/3G/WiFi

DirecTV Wants Cable to Dump Clearwire Stakes

DirecTV Group Inc. (NYSE: DTV) wants Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK), Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC) and Bright House Networks to shed their investments in Clearwire LLC (Nasdaq: CLWR) as a condition of their proposed sale of Advanced Wireless Services (AWS) spectrum to Verizon Wireless .

DirecTV's proposal, described in this Federal Communications Commission (FCC) filing, comes into play as the Commission and the U.S. Department of Justice review the proposed sales, which are valued at about $4 billion and also include Cox Communications Inc. 's AWS spectrum. T-Mobile US Inc. is in line to gain some of that spectrum, but only if Verizon Wireless can get those deals done. (See VZ Wireless/T-Mobile Spectrum Deal Has a Catch.)

In 2008, Comcast originally kicked in $1.05 billion to Clearwire, while TW Cable contributed $550 million and Bright House gave $100 million. But in late 2011, and soon after those MSOs forged spectrum sale deals and service bundling partnerships with Verizon Wireless, those operators announced plans to end their wholesale agreements with Clearwire. (See Cable Plays Clearwire Card and Comcast, TW Cable to Halt Clearwire Sales.)

DirecTV thinks those cable operators should now further distance themselves for the sake of wireless competition, arguing that cable's continued connection could scare off others from investing in Clearwire, which plans to offer Long Term Evolution Time Division Duplex (LTE TDD) services in at least 31 cities by June 2013, including New York City, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago and Seattle. (See Sprint's Stake in Clearwire Falls Below 50% and Clearwire Targets 31 Cities for LTE TDD .)

"Allowing these MSOs to continue to hold minority ownership and management interests in Clearwire despite their new arrangement with Verizon Wireless would enable them to hamper further development of Clearwire's competing network and services, both by impeding new initiatives and by refusing to make additional investments," DirecTV argued in the filing.

DirecTV didn't say if it's interested in investing in Clearwire, but it has shown some interest in offering fixed-Long Term Evolution (LTE) services -- the satellite TV company conducted LTE trials with Verizon Wireless before the mobile carrier struck its new deals with the cable operators. (See Verizon Ditches DirecTV LTE Plans for Cable and LTE in a Can .)

DirecTV, U.S. cable's largest video competitor, urged the FCC to require the cable guys to shed their interests in Clearwire within six months.

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Light Reading Cable

marjsdad 12/5/2012 | 5:27:02 PM
re: DirecTV Wants Cable to Dump Clearwire Stakes

The way I recall, Comcast wrote down its Clearwire investment a couple of years back, so maybe they could find a buyer at its current book value. Who knows?

Jeff Baumgartner 12/5/2012 | 5:27:02 PM
re: DirecTV Wants Cable to Dump Clearwire Stakes

I thought about Dish for a moment, but Clearwire doesn't need Dish's spectrum. JB

joset01 12/5/2012 | 5:27:02 PM
re: DirecTV Wants Cable to Dump Clearwire Stakes

Googl & Intel are out and Sprint's no longer a majority owner. Not clear to me that there are vast amounts of investors ouut there. China Mobile, maybe?

Jeff Baumgartner 12/5/2012 | 5:27:01 PM
re: DirecTV Wants Cable to Dump Clearwire Stakes

Maybe they'll be happy to get most of that investment back if they can and perhaps take a small loss on it. But guessing they'll want to hold onto it long enough to negotiate the best deal that they can, if they can find any takers, which might be the bigger question at this point. JB

iansltx 12/5/2012 | 5:27:00 PM
re: DirecTV Wants Cable to Dump Clearwire Stakes

My guess here is that forcing cable operators to divest CLWR would drive the price down lower than where it already is, allowing a combination of DirecTV and Sprint to scoop up the vastmajority of Clearwire very cheaply (when you don't count debt). That begs two questions. First, what would DirecTV want to do with Clearwire.Second, what would Sprint want to do with more of Clearwire?


I'll start with Sprint. Ideally, they want to treat Clearwire's network as an extension of their own, offloading traffic wherever Clear TD-LTE has decent coverage. This frees up the PCS/SMR macrocell network for everyone else on the cell, allowing for a better user experience for everyone, and using the threebands (BRS, PCS, SMR) in that order to make the most efficient use of the entire network. Right now, however, it looks like Sprint will instead be buying gigabytes from Clearwire when subs are using CLWR's TD-LTE, pushing Sprint to run their PCS network athigher loads than otherwise even if there is a tD-LTE cell that they could offload to. Owning a lot of Clearwire (more than they do now) would allow Sprint to ink a more favorable (per-sub-in-range or something) deal with CLWR, while potentially keeping Clearwire independent enough that the company could pursue arrangements with other providers.


Which brings me to an answer to the second question. DirecTV already has a fleet ofnationwideinstallers for fixed broadband service. That broadband service just happens to be DBS video delivery rather than terrestrial Internet. Speaking of of terrestrial Internet, DirecTV needs a double or triple play these days to expand revenue, and as a potential counter to cable. Quadruple play (e.g. cable's agreemnts with VZW) would be even better. One way to solve the triple-play issue...and give all those installers something extra to do...would be to adjust Clearwire TD-LTE downtilt upward a bit so that the service could be used at longer ranges with fixed, professionally installed terminals, a la Verizon HomeFusion. Why not just partner with VZW and resell HomeFusion? Because Verizon is now in bed with cable, of course.


Anyway, while 2500MHz just isn't a great band for anything but capacity augmentation in a mobile context, it's an excellent band for fixed wireless. Line of sight is not strictly necessary (though it's nice tohave), and Clearwire has plenty of spectrum in the band. As an added bonus, TD-LTE can be "weighted" toward download capacity, which is what residential broadband, particularly with streaming video (e.g. DirecTV's on demand functionality), uses. Granted, DirecTV would have to cinvince Clearwire to start deploying sites in a more coverage-centric fashion in order to make this work, but if you're serving an area where line of sight is doable and users are on fixed terminals, site spacing for 2500MHz can be comparable to mobile-focused PCS (or even cellular, if you want to push things).


So Clearwire would get another revenue stream (DirecTV could end up as big of a customer as Sprint)...andanother reason to build out their network (good for their roaming agreement with China Mobile...and good for their tech ops team, who I'm sure wants to showcase stacking as many 20MHz TD-LTE carriers as possible onto a site to blow away the competition in benchmarks). DirecTV gets the ability to do triple play (broadband via CLWR, voice over IP, TV via DBS) or maybe quadruple play if they device to collaborate with CLWR co-owner Sprint (who, remember, has no ties with either telcos or cablecos at this point...this might also push the voice side of triple play over to Sprnt 1x but my bet is that it would say VoIP). Customers get another home broadband provider, installed by their friendly local satellite techs, that could hit 20+ Mbps down and a few Mbps up (remember, we're talking about high-gain fixed wirelessequipment here running on potentially bonded 20MHz TD-LTE channels). My guess is that caps on this service would be better than HomeFusion (due to CLWR's spectrum position compared with VZW's single 10x10 FD-LTE channel), too.


Then again, I may be making much ado about nothing. I'm also of the opinion that Dish should pick up where LightSquared left off and become a Sprint spectrum hosting customer for their S-band spectrum (at 40MHz...or 20x20 FD...they could do very well on either fixed or mobile). So I'm betting one snowball's chance against another (though both companies really do need acable-competitive triple or quadruple play).

kaps 12/5/2012 | 5:26:55 PM
re: DirecTV Wants Cable to Dump Clearwire Stakes

The filing is pretty silly on its face, no? Like these investment partners ever had a say in anything CLWR did or didn't do... or that their presence "scared off" other investors. As Dan says.. what other investors?


DirecTV wants something else... classic FCC game, give me this oh you will give me that? OK. But does DirecTV have any sway at the FCC at all?

kaps 12/5/2012 | 5:26:55 PM
re: DirecTV Wants Cable to Dump Clearwire Stakes

The filing is pretty silly on its face, no? Like these investment partners ever had a say in anything CLWR did or didn't do... or that their presence "scared off" other investors. As Dan says.. what other investors?


DirecTV wants something else... classic FCC game, give me this oh you will give me that? OK. But does DirecTV have any sway at the FCC at all?

HOME
Sign In
SEARCH
CLOSE
MORE
CLOSE