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Clearwire's New Friends

Catherine Haslam

2:35 PM -- U.S. WiMax operator Clearwire LLC (Nasdaq: CLWR) is entering into cooperation agreements with Taiwan-based WiMax service providers Vee Telecom Multimedia (formerly Vastar Cable TV Systems) and Global Mobile Corp. in an attempt to speed up deployments, promote WiMax, and give a lift to its own operations.

Reports, such as this DigiTimes story, say Clearwire will share some its deployment and service experiences with Vee, and even provide some technology, in return for a stake in the company of up to 10 percent.

Why is Clearwire doing this?

Well, Taiwan is set to be one of the world's most competitive WiMax markets and, as such, will be closely watched by those in the industry keen to see how WiMax services develop.

The government licensed six regional players in 2007: Fitel, Global On Corp., WiMAX Telecom in the north; and Far EasTone Telecommunications Co. Ltd. , Tatung Telecom, and Vee Telecom Multimedia in the south. Although rollout plans have been delayed, and question marks surround the future of Fitel, Tatung did launch the first commercial service last week on Penghu Island. This is expected to be followed by others in the coming months. The Taiwanese government put WiMax at the center of the country's broadband developments with the creation of its M-Taiwan Program. This set wireless broadband penetration targets and resulted in the creation of an ecosystem amongst vendors, applications developers, and service providers for the development of the WiMax businesses. It will be in Clearwire's interests if the WiMax services market is a success in Taiwan.

Clearwire could also benefit from getting closer to Taiwan's vendor community, which is responsible for a majority share of the WiFi customer premises equipment (CPE) and device market, and hopes to replicate that success in the WiMax sector.

Two of those vendors are Accton Wireless Broadband, a subsidiary of Accton Technology Corp. , and Quanta Microsystems, a subsidiary of Quanta Computer Inc. . They have both said their shipments of WiMax CPE products are expected to exceed 100,000 units in the first quarter of 2009, surpassing the respective amounts they shipped during the whole year of 2008.

DigiTimes has this story on Taiwan's WiMax CPE vendors.

— Catherine Haslam, Asia Editor, Light Reading

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