This Week in WiMax

3:30 PM -- When Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) announced its fun plans this week to build Gigabit fiber networks (just for testing!), it was another step in the search giant's plans to disrupt the current communications status quo. But for WiMax watchers, it was also a signal that Google may have given up on its half-billion-dollar investment in WiMax provider Clearwire LLC (Nasdaq: CLWR), an asset that Google hasn't done anything with since agreeing to chip in the dough almost two years ago.

Though Google is certainly big enough to have multiple mega-million projects going on at the same time, the company's complete silence on all matters WiMax since its initial investment seems to indicate that for Google, the addressible market for WiMax users is just too small to get excited about. In fact, there's been a lot of public posturing by Google with some of Clearwire's biggest competitors -- think Verizon and its embrace of Android handsets -- and exactly zero public cooperation between Google and Clearwire.

While all of the big Clearwire investors -- Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK), Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC), etc. -- have taken accounting write-downs on their Clearwire investments, most of those big players remain actively involved from a reseller perspective. And though Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S) didn't reveal any 4G user numbers in its earnings call this week, CEO Dan Hesse did give WiMax a big thumbs up and said the carrier is still on track to have a hybrid 3G/WiMax phone out later this year.

That reseller avenue is also open to Google, as part of its investment in Clearwire -- but there have been no signs yet of any plans by Google to make use of Clearwire's services or spectrum. From a purely budgetary perspective, a fiber-to-WiMax testbed might be cheaper and more quickly deployed than Google's gigabit fiber plan -- but it would also be admittedly less sexy and perhaps miss the point of the experiment, which seems to be to push the envelope of broadband as far as it can go.

An interesting experiment, to be sure. But it's a move that may have WiMax proponents wondering what happened to their old good friend with the deep pockets.

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 WiMax analysis site and research service. He can be reached at [email protected]. Special to Unstrung.

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