This Week in Broadband

10:50 AM -- This week in Broadband, here's the big issue, as I see it:

Big wholesale numbers for Q1 show the marketing strength of Clearwire's investor partners
It hasn't happened yet, but I'll be willing to wager that before the end of 2010, the wholesale subscribers on Clearwire LLC (Nasdaq: CLWR)'s nascent national WiMax network will outnumber the retail customers signed up under the company's own Clear brand.

While Clearwire's own signups for Q1 hit a record level (172,000 new subscribers, all 4G), it was the wholesale figures from the quarter that were truly revealing -- a total of 111,000 new subscribers, almost tripling the total of 46,000 wholesale customers from all of 2009. And really, partners Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S), Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK), and Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC) have only just begun to market 4G, so this number should shoot up fairly quickly as the year goes on.

Just recently, we've seen very public proclamations from both Comcast and Time Warner about making wireless a promotional priority this calendar year. And with Sprint's sexy High Tech Computer Corp. (HTC) (Taiwan: 2498) Evo 4G nearing release (a big pre-launch preview party is scheduled for New York on May 12) it's safe to bet that the combined efforts of these "big three" partners will eclipse any marketing budget Clearwire will be able to spare.

Rightly so, Clearwire itself is focusing on spending its dough to build out its network, covering as many cities as it can before the marketing machine known as Verizon gets its LTE-based services online.

If you had any doubts about the cable companies' ability to sell, it's wise to consider one of the more interesting nuggets from this week's Clearwire conference call: the fact that one third of the wholesale customers signed up in Q1 aren't even in live 4G markets -- meaning that the cable providers (or perhaps Sprint) are able to sell the promise of 4G soon by combining it with a device that offers 3G now. As long as the price is the same or lower than the telcos' 3G offerings, it seems like a no-brainer choice, and now, apparently, some 37,000 paying customers agree.

It will be interesting to watch how many more customers find the WiMax value proposition appealing when its message is part of those ubiquitous mailings and door-hangers the cablecos are famous for.

Need to know more about Clearwire's network? Our latest report takes a look at Clearwire's innovative backhaul strategy, its open-Internet core network, and its spectrum depth assets -- and it's free to download! Just visit this link to get your copy today. Also available now for free download is our WiMax Business Deployment Guide.

— Paul Kapustka is the founder and editor of Sidecut Reports, a Wireless analysis site and research service. He can be reached at [email protected]. Special to Light Reading Mobile.

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