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December 19, 2006

Clearwire plans IPO again and Intel joins WiMax push

Wireless broadband provider Clearwire Corp is back with plans for a $400m IPO and a huge assault on landline providers, backed by the financial and marketing muscle of Intel Corp.

By CBR Staff Writer

Kirkland, Washington-based Clearwire also has ambitions to be a major player in Europe and has been gobbling up spectrum licenses that it said will give it as strong a position there as it already holds in the US.

The company, created by cellular pioneer Craig McCaw, already has 188,000 subscribers and it has agreed with Intel to offer a co-branded mobile WiMAX service, targeted at users of notebook computers, ultramobile PCs, and other mobile computing devices containing Intel microprocessors.

Clearwire filed for an IPO in May but pulled the offering in July after raising $900m in venture funding from Intel and Motorola. Bell Canada Enterprises has now joined the backers, increasing the total amount raised to $1.1bn.

A condition of the deal was that it switched from its proprietary Expedience wireless technology to Intel’s favoured WiMAX standard and it will now lead a wireless charge against DSL and cable providers.

Clearwire says that substantially all of the households it covers have access to cable modem or DSL internet services and its rapid subscriber growth rates reflects the mass market appeal of its services, even in the presence of highly competitive wireline alternatives.

It faces an intriguing battle with Sprint Nextel Corp, which is building a $3bn nationwide mobile WiMAX network in the US, also backed by Intel and Motorola, but including Samsung.

Clearwire aims to ride the crest of a broadband wave and quotes IDC as forecasting that broadband penetration would exceed 74% of US households by 2010, up from 36% in 2005. Similarily Gartner Dataquest predicted that the size of the North American WiMAX market will increase from 30,000 in 2006 to 21.2 million in 2011.

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Clearwire has dipped its toes into the European market with networks in Brussels, Belgium and Dublin, Ireland. It says that the worldwide WiMax market will increase from 180,000 in 2006 to 84.8 million in 2011.

It says it owns spectrum rights in the US covering 205 million people while in Europe it covers 117 million people, and has just acquired licenses in Germany covering a further 82.5 million people. It says it still on the lookout for more spectrum.

Clearwire doubled revenue in 2005 to $33.4m, though the cost of rolling out its network increased the net loss from $33m to $139.9m. In the nine months to September 30, growth accelerated with revenue increasing from $14.7m to $76.4m, while the net loss increase from $89.6m to $191.8m, after capital expenditure rose 28% to $191.8m.

Currently McCaw controls 52% of its voting stock while Intel holds 32%.

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