Aline van Duyn on the Sprint-Clearwire WiMax plan to provide wireless broadband across the US
The partnership will enable the two companies to accelerate their existing WiMax network plans and make more effective use of their wireless spectrum to build the first true nationwide WiMax network in the world and catapult the US into the lead in terms of 4G deployment.
“This is a win-win for customers and both companies,” said Gary Forsee, Sprint Nextel’s chief executive. Mr Forsee has spearheaded the US carrier’s bold WiMax plans despite scepticism from some investors.
Meanwhile Clearwire, which was founded in October 2003 by Craig McCaw, the cellular pioneer, has been building its own WiMax network and now offers services in 40 mostly second-tier US urban markets. It recently completed its initial public offering.
Mobile WiMaX technology is designed to operate more than five times faster than today’s third-generation wireless networks at lower cost. It is expected to allow users to wirelessly download full-length movies and songs, conduct live video-conferences from remote locations, and perform other interactive multi-media applications anywhere in the coverage area by delivering full wireless broadband internet access.
Intel and the other leading IT and telecommunications companies that have championed its development believe WiMax chips will eventually be built into a wide range of devices including laptops in much the same way that Wi-Fi technology is in current generation machines.
Under the agreement announced on Thursday, Sprint Nextel and Clearwire will build their respective portions of the nationwide network, and enable roaming between the respective territories. Sprint Nextel will focus its efforts primarily on geographic areas covering approximately 185m people, including 75 per cent of the people located in the 50 largest markets, while Clearwire will focus on areas covering approximately 115m people.
Both companies expect to launch commercial services in the first half of 2008.
The companies will also work jointly on product and service evolution, shared infrastructure, branding, marketing and distribution. Additionally, the companies intend to exchange selected 2.5 GHz spectrum in order to optimise build-out, development and operation of the network.
”This arrangement will result in stronger competition in the rapidly growing market for broadband services, and will provide consumers, national enterprises and other businesses, educators and public safety agencies greater choice and faster access to a revolutionary mobile broadband technology,” said Mr Forsee. ”It will further our objective of delivering mobile WiMAX service across the country and help fulfill our vision of delivering mobility products and services across all our networks.”
”Our joint efforts will result in customers benefiting from a more extensive network, operating sooner and using our respective spectrum more efficiently than either company could have on its own,” added Ben Wolff, Clearwire’s chief executive.
”Our companies share a vision of doing for the Internet what cellular and PCS networks did for voice communications starting more than twenty years ago. Based on this shared vision and the expected benefits to each company and our respective shareholders and customers, it is natural that we would work together.”