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Brier Dudley's Blog

Brier Dudley offers a critical look at technology and business issues affecting the Northwest.

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December 13, 2012 10:30 AM

Seattle announces fiber partner, broadband test project

Posted by Brier Dudley

Seattle today announced a new partnership with a company that plans to use parts of the city-owned fiber-optic network to provide "ultra-fast" broadband services starting in 2013.

Details are still being finalized but the city has signed a memorandum of understanding with Gigabit Squared, a Washington, D.C., venture backed by manufacturers of networking gear and other investors.

Gigabit has proposed a test project that will offer fiber-optic broadband service to a relatively small number of homes in 12 neighborhoods. Gigabit also plans to use the city's network as the foundation for wireless service - like souped-up WiFi - that it would use to provide additional service in some neighborhoods.

Some residents would be able to connect via fiber cables that extend to the home while others would be served by the wireless service. Gigabit Squared is now collecting names of interested residents at Gigabitseattle.com.

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In July Seattle abandoned nearly a decade of planning to develop a citywide, municipal broadband service. Instead, Mayor Mike McGinn opted to begin divvying up access to the government network connecting city facilities, which cost more than $50 million to install.

Developing a citywide, city-operated broadband service was also one of three key campaign promises made by McGinn when he ran for office in 2009. Today's deal is a far cry from the original vision, though it could prod entrenched providers such as Comcast and CenturyLink to improve their services and compete with the newcomer.

With the project, Seattle joins Kansas City and Chattanooga as one of the leading cities pursuing new broadband systems, according to Blair Levin, a former top staffer at the FCC and co-author of the national broadband plan who is now involved with the Seattle consortium.

U.S. Assistant Secretary of Commerce Lawrence Strickling, administrator of the National Telecommunications & Information Administration, also weighed in with a statement of support.

"Seattle's announcement today will give it a strategic bandwidth advantage, and we look forward to watching the city leverage its innovation-ripe environment for economic growth," Strickling said in a release.

Chattanooga built the kind of network Seattle talked about for years. Using a $50 million bond issuance, the local utility in 2008 began extending fiber to every one of its 170,000 customers in the city and suburbs. The fiber piggybacked on a $169 million electrical system upgrade.

Seattle officials decided they couldn't afford to build a city-operated broadband network here, though they later managed to find $200 million to finance a new privately operated basketball arena.

When Seattle decided last summer to lease excess capacity on its network, Gigabit was one of ten companies that expressed interest. McGinn's office chose four finalists and is moving ahead with Gigabit Squared.

Gigabit is calling its proposal a "hybrid" network, because it uses fiber and wireless connections.

Gigabit plans to add the wireless antenna systems on top of 38 public-housing facilities and other public buildings in Seattle. The systems would provide pockets of wireless service.

Gigabit will use transmitters on the public buildings to extend its commercial Internet service to nearby apartments and offices, using systems that beam the signal from point to point.

Gigabit will also resell access to the fiber network to other companies. Phone companies, for instance, could install cell sites on the public-housing antennas and bypass the permit process required for cell towers, according to Mark Ansboury, president of Gigabit Squared.

Ansboury said the pilot project could begin next fall. He plans to have fiber lines pass by 6,000 to 10,000 homes in the 12 neighborhoods. But he expects that connections will be made to only 8 percent to 12 percent of the homes - or about 500 to 1,200 homes.

Seattle has around 280,000 housing units so the initial phase may provide fiber to about 0.4 percent of the city.

Ansboury said penetration targets are relatively low because not everyone may want the service. He didn't specify pricing plans, but said the goal is to charge under $100 for service with 1 gigabit download speeds.

Within two years after the service begins, Gigabit Squared hopes to extend the service to pass around 50,000 homes in the city. Seattle's agreement with the company calls for the service to eventually "be available to more than 100,000 city residents in selected neighborhoods near or of interest to the University."

There are no price limitations in the agreement or requirements that the service be extended throughout the city.

"We're not in a position to require them to deploy fiber-optic cable to the home throughout the city because what they need to do is make it work in these initial neighborhoods," McGinn said. "They would then have the capacity to look at expansion."

Specific terms of the proposed lease of city assets weren't disclosed, but the city will receive a share of revenue, said Erin Devoto, deputy director of the city's department of information technology.

"We're not making money off of this but we're recouping original cost," she said.

Ansboury said his company may sell advertising on the network and offer some sort of video services.

Gigabit Squared could have built the network backbone and extended fiber itself in Seattle. Ansboury said that would have cost perhaps $15 million to $20 million and taken two years.

The initial 12 neighborhoods (as described by the city) are: The University of Washington's "West Campus District"; South Lake Union; First Hill/Capitol Hill/Central Area; The UW's Metropolitan Tract in downtown Seattle; the UW's Family Housing at Sand Point; Northgate; Volunteer Park Area; Beacon Hill and SODO Light Rail Station; and an area including Mount Baker, Columbia City, Othello and Rainier Beach.

Cities have been clamoring for gigabit broadband service since Google decided in 2010 to build a test network somewhere in the country. Seattle was among the hordes and was a finalist, according to Devoto.

Kansas City landed the Google deal and now has gigabit broadband available from the search and advertising company for $70 per month. Gigabit broadband plus TV service is available there for $120 per month and Google provides free Internet access at slower speeds.

Google may extend the program to other cities. It's not clear if Seattle's chances will diminish now that it's letting other companies get a head start on lucrative, high-density neighborhoods.

Other communities may chuckle at Seattle's pursuit of fiber broadband. Across Lake Washington, fiber broadband has been available since 2006 from Verizon and now Frontier.

When Verizon's fiber service was announced, Gov. Gregoire touted a new era of innovation that would bring benefits such as lower healthcare costs from new services that fast broadband would enable.

Residents in Grant County should have the biggest laugh. While Seattle was jawing about broadband, the public utility district in 2005 began developing one of the world's fastest broadband services. In Ephrata, ultra fast broadband is available for $45 per month.

Meanwhile private companies have stepped up in Seattle. They're already providing gigabit broadband in some areas, including the South Lake Union neighborhood that's targeted by Gigabit Squared.

CondoInternet now offers gigabit-speed service to more than 8,000 housing units in Seattle, according to John Van Oppen, chief executive of parent company Spectrum Networks. It provides up to gigabit speeds for $200 per month, or 100 megabit service for $60 per month, although the company was mulling a price drop for gigabit service before the city's deal was announced.

Seattle-based Spectrum responded to the city's last request for broadband proposals but never heard back from the city, Van Oppen said.

He believes areas like South Lake Union don't need any subsidy because they're so lucrative for broadband providers but lower-income neighborhoods may need a nudge to get ultrafast service.

Although Spectrum now provides gigabit speeds, most consumers are fine with 100 megabit per second service, Van Oppen said. That's enough to stream high quality video to every screen in a home, which is how most of America's broadband capacity is used today.

"Once you pass 100 (Mbps) it doesn't matter so much - it's more bragging rights," he said.

Comcast provides up to 105 megabits per second downloads to all of its Seattle customers for $200 per month or $105 as part of a service bundle.

Businesses and the University of Washington also have access to some of the world's fastest network connections in Seattle.

Last week, Washington state was ranked first in the nation for its broadband-enabled tech economy that includes bleeding edge, online businesses in and around Seattle. The ranking was by industry group TechNet.

Even so, public officials continue to characterize the region's broadband situation as a crisis that they're addressing with public-private partnerships.

"This is a very promising proposal that can help bring 21st century infrastructure to Seattle," McGinn said in today's release.

Gigabit Squared is partnering with Levin's Gig U, a politically connected Washington, D.C., organization promoting broadband projects with universities.

In November 2011, Seattle and the UW announced that they were working together on ways to share access to city fiber, a partnership that precipitated the demise of Seattle's vision for citywide, municipal broadband.

Six months later Seattle pulled the plug on free public wireless Internet service it had been offering in the University District and Columbia City and began working legislation to divvy up the city's network.

In May, Gig U and Gigabit Squared announced that they had raised $200 million to build and test gigabit-speed broadband services in select neighborhoods.

Ansboury said that money won't be used for Seattle's project. Instead, his company wants to raise another $25 million from investors for the Seattle project.

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Comments | Category: Broadband , Clearwire , Comcast , Frontier , Public policy , Seattle , Verizon |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

November 15, 2012 5:30 AM

Kirkland's Wave raises $1 billion for broadband growth

Posted by Brier Dudley

Wave Broadband may have to change its name to Tsunami.

The Kirkland-based company is announcing today that it has raised $1.052 billion to accelerate the expansion of its broadband network on the West Coast.

That's not all new money, though. It's a recapitalization of the company, which has about $350 million in debt. The $1 billion includes funding from new investors Oak Hill Capital and GI Partners and debt financing led by Wells Fargo and Deutsche Bank.

Oak Hill and GI acquired a majority stake in Wave in June, buying out its previous backer, Sandler Capital Managment.

The recapitalization gives Wave plenty of capital to expand its broadband and cable services to business and residential customers in Washington, Oregon and Idaho. It also enables the company to bulk up with acquisitions.

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Wave will continue providing cable and broadband services in communities where it has franchises, including parts of Seattle and its suburbs. Its big focus now is building up the business offerings, which aren't limited by franchise boundaries.

Operating quietly in the shadow of the region's larger telecom companies, Wave has steadily built a profitable business providing cable and broadband services in the Puget Sound area, San Francisco, Sacramento and Portland.

Chief Executive Steve Weed (pictured) is a longtime telco executive who started Wave in 2001. He built the company largely through acquisitions of cable and broadband operations, including distressed companies that sold assets for less than they cost to build. A recent deal was the January purchase of Broadstripe's operations in Washington and Oregon.

Wave now has about 400,000 customers and 800 employees, including about 200 at its Kirkland headquarters. By employees, it's comparable to Bellevue-based Clearwire.

Wave sales have been growing 40 to 50 percent over the past three years and should reach $300 million this year, Weed said.

"On the business side we've got a superior product to the big telcos. We're beating them on rates and a much better service experience," he said.

As part of its refresh, Wave has been hiring new marketing and operations executives from other broadband companies. It also promoted its chief operating officer, Steve Friedman, to president.

Partnering with cities to offer municipal broadband is a possibility.

"I think we would be interested in doing that," Weed said, "but it's not on my short-term to-do list."

Comments | Category: Broadband , Clearwire , Comcast , Enterprise , Entrepreneurs , Frontier , Telecom , Verizon |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

March 26, 2012 10:17 AM

Clearwire, layoffs and the future of 4G wireless service

Posted by Brier Dudley

Garet Martin is ahead of the curve.

The Portland resident experienced the future of 4G wireless service last week, and it wasn't pretty.

Martin gets wireless home broadband and phone service from Bellevue-based Clearwire.

She's generally pleased with the $63-a-month package, even though she has to move her modem when a particular tree gets leafy in the summer and interferes with the signal coming across the Willamette River.

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It was all fine until earlier this month, when she lost access to her voice-mail box. She called me after she had been stuck for nearly two weeks, only getting a recorded message saying her voice mail "is temporarily unavailable."

A series of calls to Clearwire's customer-service numbers went nowhere. Visits to a Clearwire outlet in Portland led to more dead-ends, but she did learn others were having the same problem with their voice mail.

Martin's situation was a little unusual, but I'll bet customer service will be a growing challenge over the next year or two for wireless companies.

A storm is brewing: Phone companies are rushing to build-out fourth-generation wireless networks better able to handle the crush of data from smartphones, tablets and other mobile-computing devices.

Consumers have become dependent on wireless devices, and most are upgrading to smartphones that are more complex.

To cover the cost of their network upgrades, phone companies are making some changes. They're moving toward more complicated pricing plans that meter data service.

At the same time, phone companies are diverting resources away from customer service and toward network upgrades. As we've seen over the past month, this has led to huge layoffs at call centers.

T-Mobile USA last week said it's closing seven centers, cutting 1,900 jobs so it can afford a $4 billion upgrade to 4G LTE technology. Verizon earlier said it's closing three centers, including one with 850 employees in Bellevue.

These follow a string of layoffs at other companies, including Clearwire.

In some ways Clearwire is a bellwether. It was the first company to offer true 4G wireless broadband, but the expensive network project led to sweeping layoffs and restructuring in 2010.

Clearwire's shifting strategy led to the problems Martin encountered this month. But she didn't learn that from the company she's been supporting for several years.

Customer-service reps were stumped with her problem, and her extended waits on the phone ended in frustration.

"Frankly, all the people I reach in the Philippines and India ... they all say how sorry they are, but they can't really do anything -- they can't or won't give me a supervisor or tell me where I can call in the United States," she said.

The reps told Martin "they know there's a problem and they told me there are a lot of people who are calling, but they just can't help me."

Martin isn't your ordinary frustrated customer. She said she used to head the Better Business Bureau's complaint department in San Francisco. After moving to Portland, she became a community activist.

"I love handling disputes," she said.

It makes you wonder what a less-motivated customer would have done. I'd have thrown my Clearwire modem out the window after those calls.

Instead, Martin drove to a Clearwire retailer in Portland. A person there gave her a number for a corporate office, which was always busy when she called, and for a regional office in Portland that turned out to have been vacated.

The sales outlet had a Clearwire sign but stopped selling Clearwire service and now sells other plans. Still, an employee told her other Clearwire customers had come to complain about the voice-mail problem.

Finally Martin began calling reporters.

I contacted Clearwire last Tuesday and asked if there were any service problems in Portland or Seattle. The initial response was that there were no network problems, outages or service disruptions.

Martin was still stuck, so I tried again with Clearwire, explaining that some customers were apparently unable to access voice mail.

A spokesman then replied that Clearwire is shifting the operation of its home-phone service to a third-party vendor. Customers who try their voice-mail password repeatedly during this process could get locked out.

Clearwire no longer sells this phone service to new customers. It's now mostly focused on providing wholesale service that larger companies use to supplement their networks.

Still, it continues to support 1.3 million retail customers, including perhaps 100,000 using the home-phone service.

"The service didn't really make sense as a long-term product for us," spokesman Mike DiGioia said.

Most customers didn't notice the back-end provider changed, he said. But some were caught in the migration and had their mailbox PIN codes locked up.

I guess that's understandable, but Clearwire dropped the ball by not informing its call centers of the issue. After our exchange, it set up a process for call centers to resolve it, DiGioia said.

But after I passed this on to Martin and she tried again with customer service Thursday, it still didn't work. DiGioia noted the fix could take 24 to 36 hours to take effect, but offered to intervene.

"We're sorry it happened, but we're working to make it right for them," he said.

Martin opted to have me share her name with the company, rather than wait another day. That afternoon she was on the phone with Geoff Levy, Clearwire head of customer care, and a product manager, who immediately fixed the problem.

"I'm getting two months of free service, but I still gave him hell," Martin said. "I told him I can't believe you treat your customers this way and you weren't more proactive."

Even so, Martin will keep using the wireless service she's grown to depend upon.

"I'll probably stick with them for quite a while, unless I have more problems," she said. "There really isn't anything competitive now."

Comments | Category: 4G , Broadband , Clearwire , Phones , T-Mobile , Tech work , Telecom |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

October 17, 2011 12:00 AM

Verizon flies past other carriers in Seattle speed test

Posted by Brier Dudley

Verizon and its new LTE network walloped other carriers in a new survey of Seattle-area wireless network performance.

The survey (posted below) was done by Bellevue's RootMetrics, which did more than 27,000 call, data and text tests in September to gauge speeds and performance of the different carriers in the area.

It found that Verizon's average download speed was up to 21.5 times faster and its average upload speed was 20 times faster than previous tests in February, which didn't test the latest 4G networks.

Verizon's average download speed of 14.5 megabits per second was faster than the maximum speed Root recorded on any of the other carriers, and its 9.6 Mbps upload speed was eight times faster than T-Mobile, its nearest competitor.

Verizon also topped its ranking of overall performance. Second place went to AT&T, followed by T-Mobile and Sprint.

Root also found that AT&T more than doubled its average download speeds since its previous tests, moving it from third to second place in its speed ranking. T-Mobile also showed faster downloads but they "increased at a less drastic rate, while Sprint's average download speed actually declined."

T-Mobile was the quickest to deliver text messages.

When it came to dropped calls, all four carriers "delivered statistically equal performances" the report found, with drop rates of 0.1 to 1.6 percent.

But data transmission failures were higher in Seattle than in other markets that Root has tested recently. AT&T had the lowest data failure rate - with failures in 6.2 percent of its tests - and Sprint had the highest rate, with failures in 14.2 percent of its tests.

Root did the tests with off-the-shelf Android devices. From the description of the devices and methods:

The HTC myTouch 4G Slide (T-Mobile 4G), the HTC Thunderbolt (Verizon 4G), the Samsung Epic 4G (Sprint 4G), and the Samsung Infuse 4G (AT&T 4G). During the Text test, SMS messages were sent from each phone to an in-market receiver kit holding mobile devices for each of the carriers. The phones used in the receiver kit were the HTC Droid Eris (Verizon), the HTC Evo (Sprint), the Samsung Captivate (AT&T), and the Samsung Vibrant (T-Mobile).

A few graphics from its report:

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Comments | Category: 4G , AT&T , Clearwire , Gadgets & products , Sprint , T-Mobile , Telecom , Verizon |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

August 17, 2011 3:12 PM

Clearwire jumps as Stanton doubles down on stock

Posted by Brier Dudley

At least one investor has faith that Clearwire's bet on ultrafast LTE technology will pay off.

That would be Executive Chairman John Stanton, who oversaw the company's shift toward LTE while serving as interim chief executive over the past five months. Stanton stepped aside on Aug. 11 when Erik Prusch was named chief executive of the Kirkland company.

Between Friday, Aug. 12, and Tuesday, Aug. 16, Stanton bought 2,755,000 shares, including 103,035 shares for his family trust. At today's closing price those shares are worth $6.4 million.

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That brought his Clearwire stake to 3,431,352 shares as of Tuesday, according to a disclosure report filed that day. That's almost double his Clearwire stake disclosed by the company in April, when he had 1,796,685 shares.

The disclosure of Stanton's purchases boosted confidence in the stock, which soared 27 percent Wednesday, closing at $2.33, up 50 cents for the day. It was the second highest gaining stock, on a percentage basis, on Tuesday.

That nearly recouped the stock's loss since a big plunge Aug. 3, but it remains well below its $8.82 high for the year. Stanton paid between $1.78 and $1.89 for his recent buys.

The last plunge came after the company used its earnings report to announce plans for an "LTE Advanced" network that will provide wireless download speeds over 100 megabits per second. It was a turning point for a company built on WiMax, a different wireless broadband technology that's being eclipsed by LTE.

The catch -- that Clearwire needs to raise up to $900 million to pay for the LTE project -- overshadowed the company's recent growth in subscribers and progress towards profitability. The day after the earnings report, CLWR fell from $2.47 to $1.76.

Stanton must have confidence the company will find a way to pay for the LTE upgrade -- he and Clearwire founder Craig McCaw always seem to find ways to fund their wireless ventures -- but he declined to comment on the topic this afternoon.

Comments | Category: 4G , Billionaire techies , Clearwire , Phones , Telecom |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

August 3, 2011 1:37 PM

Clearwire launching superfast LTE network, 100 Mbps-plus

Posted by Brier Dudley

Kirkland wireless broadband company Clearwire announced today that it's going to begin operating a superfast LTE network, in addition to the WiMax network that the company was built upon.

Its stock jumped 10 percent to close at $2.47, then fell 2 percent after the bell and after the LTE network was announced along with financial performance during the past quarter. Clearwire sales more than doubled during the quarter, but it continued to lose money.

The company said it's still committed to WiMax, but it also has the spectrum and capacity to offer an LTE service that meets the demands of the market. With Verizon and AT&T rolling out LTE networks, the technology is emerging as the new standard for 4G networks providing speeds as fast as wired broadband connections.

"Clearwire plans to raise the bar again for mobile broadband service in the United States," John Stanton, Clearwire's interim chief executive, said in a release. "Our leadership in launching 4G services forced a major change in the competitive mobile data landscape. Now, we plan to bring our considerable spectrum portfolio to bear to deliver an LTE network capable of meeting the future demands of the market."

Clearwire began testing "LTE Advanced" service in 2010 and achieved download speeds of more than 120 megabits per second. The company plans to provide the service initially in densely populated, urban areas where it already has high demand for its 4G service.

"This is the future of mobile broadband," Clearwire Chief Technology Offier John Saw said in the release. "Our extensive trial has clearly shown that our 'LTE Advanced-ready' network design, which leverages our deep spectrum with wide channels, can achieve far greater speeds and capacity than any other network that exists today. Clearwire is the only carrier with the unencumbered spectrum portfolio required to achieve this level of speed and capacity in the United States."

There is a big footnote in the announcement, though: The company said the LTE deployment "is subject to additional funding."

There's also a difference between peak speeds and real-world download performance, though.

Verizon began operating an LTE network and advises customers to expect download speeds of 5 to 12 megabits per second.

Meanwhile, T-Mobile USA and AT&T have goosed their HSPA networks to get 4G speeds, with T-Mobile's now capable of downloads up to 42 Mbps in some areas, including Seattle.

Clearwire announced its LTE plans along with its quarterly earnings report. It reported a net loss of $160.5 million on sales of $322.6 million during the quarter, which ended June 30. Its operating loss during the quarter was $911.6 million.

During the quarter, it added 1.5 million wholesale subscribers, a 31 percent sequential gain. It ended the quarter with 7.65 million subscribers, up 365 percent from the same period a year ago.

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July 7, 2011 1:06 PM

McCaw's ICO shuffles team, changes name

Posted by Brier Dudley

Kirkland satellite telecom company ICO Global Communications is reorganizing a bit, following its June 20 acquisition of IP services company Ovidian.

The company, backed by Craig McCaw, is changing its name to Pendrell Corp. later this month and adding new leadership. As part of the change, its ticker symbol on Nasdaq will change from ICOG to PCO.

Robert Mechaley Jr., a co-founder of Clearwire and former chief scientist at AT&T Wireless, is joining as chief scientist.

The company also named Timothy Dozois its corporate counsel and secretary and Mark Fanning as its "chief people officer." Fanning is a veteran of Clearwire, Nextel Partners, AT&T Wireless and McCaw Cellular.

ICO also announced that its chief executive, Ben Wolff, and Gerard Salemme, its chief strategy officer, resigned from their positions with McCaw's Eagle River investment company "in order to focus their full attention on the business of the company."

ICOG rose 2 cents today, to $3, after the changes were announced.

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June 22, 2011 10:51 AM

McCaw, Clearwire vet Nick Kauser lauded

Posted by Brier Dudley

Nick Kauser, a pioneer of the wireless industry spawned in the Seattle area, today was named to the Wireless Hall of Fame organized by the non-profit Wireless History Foundation.

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Kauser was chief technology officer of McCaw Cellular Communications, Rogers Cantel, AT&T Wireless and Clearwire. At AT&T Wireless, he led the "Project Angel" venture that was the foundation of Clearwire, which he co-founded and served as CTO until he retired in 2007.

In its announcement, the foundation noted that Kauser "built the first nationwide network across both Canada and the United States. He led U.S. standards processes, aggressively explored new technologies, and laid the basis for nationwide automatic roaming."

Kauser will be feted at an Oct. 10 dinner in San Diego. Other honorees include Robert Marino, the first employee of Sprint predecessor United TeleSpectrum; Clayton Niles, former chairman of Communications Industries; and the late Arnold Pohs, former chairman of CommNet Celluar and the CTIA trade group.

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May 18, 2011 9:29 AM

Major pruning at Clearwire - engineering, 700 jobs handed off

Posted by Brier Dudley

Clearwire's restructuring took a radical turn this morning when the Kirkland wireless company announced that it's handing off engineering and support of its 4G network to Ericsson.

About 700 Clearwire employees will shift to Ericsson, which is taking over network engineering, operations and maintenance for at least the next seven years.

Clearwire still owns the network and will continue to handle relationships with consumers and business customers. The 700 employees are expected to start work at Ericsson soon, before "mid-year 2011."

"We're positioning this company to be able to be profitable and generate cash flow we're going to be able to reinvest back into the network," said Erik Prusch, Clearwire's chief operating officer.

Clearwire stock jumped about 5 percent on the news, to around $4.50 as of 10 a.m.

It's the second major reduction in employment at Clearwire in the last six months. Facing a cash crunch, the company in November laid off 630 and halted expansion of its retail network and growth into some new markets.

At the time it had 4,200 employees nationally and about 700 locally. As of April 1, it had 3,300 nationally and about 550 locally, of which about 100 will transfer to Ericsson.

With the Ericsson deal, the company's following the path of its corporate parent Sprint, which also offloaded network engineering and support to the Swedish telecommunications company.

Ericsson now works for Sprint in Redmond and has an office in Bellevue, but for the time being the Clearwire employees will continue working at its Bellevue office.

Prusch said the employees should receive benefits comparable to what they received at Clearwire.

"They're permanent employees, it is a long-term contract with Ericsson," he said. "One of our chief concerns was being able to continue to have the relationship with these employees."

Prusch continued:

"We really view this thing as a win-win which allows them continuity of employment, good or better benefits, or the same or better benefits than they've got, and most importantly retention of their institutional knowledge (and) the their ability to make an impact on our network."

Ericsson spokeswoman Kathy Egan said all 700 employees will be hired and will receive "comparable" benefits. They are spread across the country with the largest pockets in the Seattle area and Las Vegas, which also has about 100.

"I can tell you that everyone is coming over," she said. "We greatly value their WiMax expertise and we are very much looking forward to welcoming them to Ericsson."

Seniority will also transfer, she said: "Seniority will all be honored so the time that they had at Clearwire will transfer over with them to Ericsson."

As for employment beyond the seven-year contract with Clearwire, she said "I don't know that, I can't speculate beyond seven years."

Asked if the pruning positions Clearwire for a sale or merger, Prusch said he sees it doing the opposite, setting the company up to run profitably and fund its expansion with revenue.

"This is the next step in that evolutionary process, which is to make certain we're doing best practices across the business," he said.

Clearwire's expecting to be profitable within the next year to 18 months. Prusch wouldn't say how much the Ericsson deal changes that target but more details should be disclosed with the company's next earnings.

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March 14, 2011 1:49 PM

Could Seattle become the Detroit of wireless?

Posted by Brier Dudley

It's looking more likely that T-Mobile USA and Clearwire could get swallowed up by Sprint.

Which raises the question, will Seattle become the Detroit of the wireless industry?

Not too long ago this was Wireless City, the heart of the industry. It started when McCaw Cellular assembled the first nationwide cell network in the 1980s.

McCaw sold to AT&T in 1994, but AT&T Wireless kept a presence here and more huge companies were formed.

The McCaw network spawned Western Wireless and VoiceStream, which became T-Mobile.

It also controlled Nextel, before it was sold to Sprint. Then Craig McCaw started Clearwire in 2003, pursuing his vision of wireless broadband.

Now what's left is in play.

T-Mobile has to decide whether to stay independent or join forces with Overland Park, Kan.-based Sprint, to better compete with AT&T and Verizon Wireless, said Chetan Sharma, an Issaquah-based industry consultant. Major markets around the world eventually end up with three large players, he said.

Sprint and T-Mobile would have 83 million subscribers -- heft comparable to AT&T's 95 million subscribers and Verizon's 103 million, he said.

There's been speculation that Clearwire could be rolled in, but its chairman and acting chief executive, John Stanton, doesn't foresee a sale.

"I expect that Clearwire will continue to be here and continue to be independent and continue be an important employer," he said.

Stanton, a McCaw veteran who led VoiceStream through its sale, doesn't see a wireless Detroit here.

"It still is the capital of wireless," he said.

The region still has the largest percentage of population working in the industry, he said, including 4,500 AT&T employees still here and 3,000 to 4,000 more at T-Mobile.

The wireless industry contributed to hundreds of smaller companies, several venture firms and mobile efforts at Microsoft and other tech companies, he said.

But from a software perspective, the epicenter has shifted to Silicon Valley, Sharma said.

"If Seattle's going to stay relevant, it's going to have to do more on the software side of things," he said.

That could happen, if Microsoft gets traction with its phone platform. Nokia is also likely to expand its presence in the area as its Microsoft partnership gets rolling.

Amazon.com could increase its mobile business. Sharma said it's likely the company is exploring the potential of new mobile devices based on Android or other operating systems.

Even if T-Mobile and Clearwire are sold, they'd likely remain big employers for perhaps five years, Sharma said.

In the meantime, Seattle needs to see more development in wireless applications, operating systems and services to stay relevant, he said.

"It does need to reinvent itself if it still wants to be considered a wireless hub," he said.

It's probably too soon for an inspirational Super Bowl ad, like Chrysler's spot talking up Detroit's history and skill.

If it gets to that point, call Stanton for the voice-over:

"This is Wireless City, and this is what we do."

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March 10, 2011 1:00 PM

Clearwire names John Stanton CEO; Morrow, Sievert out

Posted by Brier Dudley

Kirkland wireless company Clearwire just named John Stanton its chief executive on an interim basis, replacing William Morrow, who resigned from the position and the board.

Stanton is Clearwire's chairman and a giant in the wireless industry. He was formerly chief executive of Western Wireless and VoiceStream Wireless, which was sold to Deutsche Telekom and became T-Mobile USA.

JohnWStanton_ClearwireChairman.jpg
Perhaps investors saw it coming. Clearwire stock closed up 6.88 percent today, at $5.75, on unusually high volume.

Clearwire said Morrow cited personal reasons for his resignation.

Also leaving are several of Morrow's lieutenants, including Chief Commercial Officer Mike Sievert, a former Microsoft executive who led Windows Vista maketing, and Kevin Hart, Clearwire's chief information officer.

Clearwire said it's promoting Erik Prusch, chief financial officer, to a new position as chief operating officer responsible for day-to-day operations. The company also promoted Hope Cochran, senior vice president and treasurer, to CFO.

Stanton said Morrow's decision to leave "represented a timely opportunity for us to make a number of other organizational changes."

"My belief is you're way better (off) making a whole series of organizational changes at once, rather than trying to dribble things out," he said.

A search has begun for a permanent replacement chief executive, although that could be a short-term job. There's continued speculation that Clearwire will be acquired by a larger company such as T-Mobile.

Stanton said he will not become the permanent chief executive. "No - let me spell that for you - n, o," he said.

"I have a lot of interests," he explained. "I have agreed to do this because there was a need and I was chairman of the board and I have a responsibility and frankly because I love Clearwire."

Clearwire has struggled in recent years as the cost to build its 4G Wimax network outpaced the growth of subscription revenue and the patience of investors.

Morrow (below), former chief executive of Pacific Gas & Electric and a veteran of Vodafone, took the job in early 2009.


Losses forced Morrow last November to halt the expansion of its retail network, lay off 15 percent of its employees and delay launches in several big markets.

Yet the company continued to grow subscriptions. At the end of 2010 it had 4.4 million subscribers, up 540 percent, including 1.5 million added during the fourth quarter.

Morrow said during the February earnings report that Clearwire expects to more than double subscriptions in 2011 and achieve positive earnings before taxes and depreciation in 2012. The company could "potentially become cash flow positive thereafter without the need for additional funding," he said in the Feb. 17 release.

Meanwhile Clearwire's facing stiff competition as networks boost their wireless speeds and roll out new technologies such as the LTE network that Verizon's now operating.

Clearwire was the first fourth-generation wireless service available to consumers but now LTE is available and AT&T and T-Mobile have coaxed "4G" speeds from their existing networks.

Stanton doesn't think the cachet of Clearwire's 4G service is gone, though.

"The first to market, first mover advantage is significant," he said. "Frankly the others that have come along have had to do a lot of 'me-too' advertising and promotion whereas as a result of their relationship with us, Sprint is viewed as the leader in 4G."

With other 4G services available, "it means we've got to run hard to maintain our lead but Clearwire really represents, unambiguously, the leader in 4G," Stanton said.

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January 20, 2011 10:07 AM

T-Mobile to grow with $10 data plans, $100 smartphones, LTE next

Posted by Brier Dudley

Lots of news came out of an investor meeting T-Mobile had in New York today.

T-Mobile USA Chief Executive Philipp Humm said sales growth should resume this year, in part because of aggressive moves to court the 150 million Americans interested in upgrading to smartphones.

The strategy includes offering smartphones for under $100 and $10 data plans, according to Bloomberg's account of the meeting. (The company now offers a 200 megabyte data plan as a $10 add-on to voice plans).

Humm didn't announce plans to carry the iPhone. He did say about 10 percent of customers that leave the carrier are going to companies that carry Apple's device; I wonder what's drawing the other 90 percent.

Executives said the company has enough resources to develop a 4G LTE network, which may cost $1 billion to $2 billion and come online in a few years. It could raise capital by selling its cell towers, then renting back space on the towers that it needs, Reuters reported.

But it doesn't have enough wireless spectrum for the LTE project. Chief Technology Officer Neville Ray told investors the company will need a partner by 2014 or 2015, Bloomberg reported.

Kirkland-based Clearwire is an obvious choice but it apparently wasn't specified by Ray or Humm.

It sounds T-Mobile won't be buying Clearwire outright, at least not for cash.

"We won't be pursuing large-scale cash acquisitions," Deutsche Telekom Chief Executive Rene Obermann said, according to Bloomberg.

Simultaneously, the company announced that it's going to carry the Samsung Galaxy S Android smartphone later this year. It's the first phone capable of the 21 megabits per second "theoretical peak download speeds" of the company's current network. Pricing wasn't disclosed, but it would be surprising if this one costs less than $100.

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January 18, 2011 11:19 AM

Stanton takes McCaw spot at Clearwire

Posted by Brier Dudley

Clearwire didn't have to look far to fill the chairman seat vacated last month by Craig McCaw.

The Kirkland company happened to have another wireless pioneer at hand. It announced today that John Stanton was elected chairman of the Clearwire board, on which he's been a director since November 2008.

Stanton is known for making incredible deals, so perhaps that's in Clearwire's future.

He built up Western Wireless and sold it to Alltel for $6 billion in 2005. He was also chairman of VoiceStream Wireless, which was acquired by Deutsche Telekom in 2001 for more than $30 billion.

Stanton is now managing director of the Trilogy Partners investment firm and operator of several international wireless companies.

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November 4, 2010 1:38 PM

Clearwire crunch: Huge layoffs, cost cuts

Posted by Brier Dudley

Kirkland-based Clearwire's need for more capital has become critical.

In its earnings announcement today, the company said it's drastically cutting costs while it tries to resolve the situation with investors. Among the options being discussed are selling assets and "strategic transactions."

Meanwhile, Clearwire is lopping 15 percent of its employees, or 630 jobs.

Clearwire employs around 700 at its Kirkland headquarters, which could see 105 layoffs if the cuts there are proportional.

It's also delaying the release of Clear-brand smartphones, halting expansion of its retail network, cutting marketing and suspending expansion into markets including Denver and Miami.

The company employs 4,200 employees and will cut "across all functions and levels," spokeswoman Susan Johnston said. She noted that after the cuts the company will still employ more than it did at the end of 2009.

"We remain cautiously optimistic about securing funding, but prudence dictates that we implement these temporary cash preservation measures," she said via email.

Clearwire reported an operating loss of $539.7 million in the quarter that ended Sept. 30, up from its $291.3 million operating loss during the same period last year.

Its "net loss attributable to Clearwire" was $139.4 million or 58 cents per share. Sales were $146.9 million, up 114 percent from $68.8 million a year ago.

It expects to spend $3.2 billion to $3.4 billion this year building out its network and business.

Cost cuts also include a "substantial reduction in the contractor workforce."

From its announcement:

The Company currently has thousands of sites in various stages of planning and construction beyond its current build plan, and it intends to suspend zoning and permitting in a portion of those sites until such time as additional funding becomes available. These contemplated initiatives are intended to result in potential cost savings of between $100 million to $200 million in 2010 and again in the first half of 2011.

Clearwire's been hiring like crazy. It employed 3,595 in March, up from 2,015 in March 2009. At that level, the 15 percent layoff would mean about 539 jobs will be cut.

Despite the financing challenge, Chief Executive Bill Morrow talked up the company's subscriber growth in the earnings release. His opening quote:

"This quarter we saw continued strong demand for the nation's first 4G mobile broadband service, which drove a record 1.23 million new subscribers for an ending third quarter subscriber base in excess of 2.84 million. Due to this phenomenal growth, we now believe we will end this year in excess of 4 million in total subscribers, nearly doubling our original 2010 expectation of just over 2 million."

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August 30, 2010 2:05 PM

Samsung Epic 4G, Galaxy S cost comparison

Posted by Brier Dudley

If you're interested in the different flavors of Samsung's hit Galaxy S phones -- including the new Epic 4G that Sprint is releasing Tuesday -- here's an infographic from BillShrink.com comparing features and costs.

samsunggalax.jpg

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August 12, 2010 10:57 AM

Sprint's next 4G phone, a Samsung slider

Posted by Brier Dudley

The second phone to take advantage of Clearwire's 4G network will be the Samsung Epic 4G, a special version of the Samsung Galaxy S going on sale Aug. 31 for $250.

It follows the Evo 4G that debuted in June. Both use 4G where available and 3G everywhere else, and work as mobile hotspots for an additional fee.

Sprint's release billed its new Android slider phone as "A Movie Theater in Your Hand." Samsung's preparing a "media hub" service with a video store to buy or rent movies and TV shows via the device, which has a 4-inch Super AMOLED display.
SamsungEpic4Gopen.jpg

The phone's also going to work with Samsung's "AllShare" service that wirelessly shares music, photos and HD video with TVs, cameras, printers and other devices with DLNA certification.

Inside it's running Android 2.1 on Samsung's 1 GHz processor; Apple uses related processors from Samsung in the iPad and iPhone 4. The Epic 4G has a 5 megapixel camera that takes 720p HD video and a front-facing camera for video chat.

The price is after a $100 rebate and with a two-year commitment to plans starting at $70 per month. Pre-orders begin Friday.

Sprint's announcement coincides with a new report from Gartner saying that Android has overtaken Apple's iOS to become the world's third-most popular mobile operating system, behind Symbian and RIM, during the second quarter. In the U.S., Android's now ahead of RIM, the report said.

Samsung, meanwhile, is the world's second-largest phone maker behind Nokia and ahead of LG.

ww phones q210.jpg

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August 11, 2010 3:10 PM

Wanting a Clearwire iSpot? A little fyi ...

Posted by Brier Dudley

A reader in Redmond who bought one of Clearwire's new iSpot portable hotspots for Apple devices shared some interesting details about the device.

It works well, providing much faster speeds for his iPad than the 3G service from AT&T, he said. The $100 iSpot works with Clear data plans starting at $25 per month.

But he almost ditched the iSpot after going through its activation process. It turns out the Clear service requires users to provide a phone number, which the company can use for marketing.

He was unable to activate the device and start using it until he had opted in to this arrangement. His trick, though, was to give Clear the silenced number of his fax machine.

Others buyers may not realize what they're agreeing to -- or have a dedicated fax line to fob off telemarketers.

A Clearwire spokesman confirmed that the phone number disclosure is required in the activation process.

"A lot of our products are evolutionary," explained Mike DiGioia, and Clear wants to "make sure customers have a way to be aware" of new offerings.

Clearwire shares customer numbers only with companies "that we work with in order to conduct our normal course of business, it's not selling our list," he said. The company may also use the phone numbers for billing and service, he added.

Here's what the terms of service say: "Regardless of whether this is a wired or wireless number or whether this number is listed on the Do-Not-Call Registry, you consent to being contacted by Clearwire (and/or its designated agents) at this number, for any purpose (including sales, marketing and promotional offers) and by any means (including autodialed or prerecorded voice calls and text messages)."

People who want to opt out may complete a form at Clearwire's website, after they've finished activating the device. The site cautions that junk mail ("marketing information by physical mail") may take eight to 12 weeks to stop arriving, and e-mail opt-outs will be processed within 10 business days.

The approach is standard with Clear devices, not just the iSpot, and it hasn't been a problem, DiGioia said.

"That's the policy that we've adopted. We haven't found a negative response from our customers," he said.

Except the one who called me. He's furious.

Maybe this is just the way it's going to be when you buy telecommunications services that aren't bound to a phone. But Clearwire's approach is still a surprising choice for a company that's been working to improve its customer-service reputation.

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August 4, 2010 9:22 AM

Clearwire releases iSpot 4G for iPhone, iPad

Posted by Brier Dudley

Kirkland 4G broadband provider Clearwire today announced a special version of its mobile hotspot for people using Apple's iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch.

The iSpot is a puck modem similar to 4G Sprint Overdrive, but it's white and "made exclusively for Apple mobile products," Clearwire said in its release.

The iSpot also supports more simultaneous users - up to eight devices can connect at once via WiFi, versus the five with the Overdrive.

Clearwire's selling the iSpot for $100. An introductory data plan costs $25 per month and provides unlimited data at speeds of 3 to 6 megabits per second, with bursts up to 10.

Strangely, the iSpot will only support Apple devices with a $25 per month plan. Higher priced plans are available to open the hotspot to all WiFi devices, similar to the Overdrive. A spokesman said the device limits access to Apple devices by filtering MAC addresses, allowing only devices in the range used by the Apple products.

iSpot_Hero_StandAlone_white_R1(2).jpg

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July 28, 2010 2:30 PM

Sezmi TV service coming to Seattle Aug. 2

Posted by Brier Dudley

Sezmi, an ambitious TV startup led by veterans of Sony and Clearwire, is finally launching its service in Seattle next month.

The company offers an alternative to cable and satellite TV services, using special hardware that receives TV content over-the-air and via broadband Internet connections.

Sezmi tested its service in Seattle in 2008, in part because of the region's challenging topography. It also helped that three of the company's managers were based here at the time.

Here's a story I wrote in 2008 when the company announced its plans.

Service in Seattle will start with a basic $4.99 per month plan offering local broadcast channels in high definition, a library of on-demand movies and cable shows, and access to YouTube and other Web video shows.

Sezmi_Product_Family3_l.jpg
To use the service, you've got to buy the hardware - including a receiver and a DVR with 1 terabyte of capacity shown here - for $150. There are no equipment rental fees.

In other markets, Sezmi offers a premium plan for $19 that includes access to 15 cable channels but not ESPN, Food Network or HGTV. A spokeswoman said the premium service should be available in Seattle at the end of the year or the start of 2011 and the company's working to expand the cable lineup.

Sezmi, based in Belmont, Calif., raised $75 million since it was started in 2006. It launched its service earlier this year in Los Angeles.

Seattle's part of an expansion push that's extending Sezmi from 15 to 36 markets on Aug. 2.


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July 1, 2010 9:30 AM

4G broadband comes to Yakima, Tri-Cities, Eugene

Posted by Brier Dudley

Smaller cities in the Northwest are starting to get fourth-generation wireless technology.

Clearwire today announced that it's extending its 4G service to Yakima, Tri-Cities and Eugene. Today's batch of Clearwire market announcements also includes Merced and Visalia, Calif., and Rochester and Syracuse, N.Y.

The service promises mobile download speeds of 3 to 6 megabits per second with bursts up to 10 Mbps. It works with special modems, PC adapters and, so far, one phone, the HTC Evo sold by Sprint. Sprint is set to have the technology available in its Central Washington stores on July 11.

Coverage maps (below) at Clearwire's Web site indicate the Central Washington service actually extends to the Lower Yakima Valley cities between Yakima and Tri-Cities including Toppenish, Prosser and Sunnyside. Ellensburg is also shown as having 4G.

But the company still hasn't made it to Spokane, Walla Walla or Wenatchee, or Olympia on the west side. Not to mention rural areas.

clearwire central wash.jpg

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June 4, 2010 1:00 PM

Washington Sprint stores sell out of HTC Evo 4G

Posted by Brier Dudley

This picture may show the last HTC Evo 4G phone being sold at a Sprint store in Washington during today's launch sale. I took this about an hour ago at the store at Westlake Center, where the guy in the vest is getting the last one ready for a customer.

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A worker told me that all the stores in Washington are sold out after the morning rush but they're hoping to get more soon. Westlake ran out during lunch and the store a few blocks away on Union ran out at around 11 a.m. I've asked Sprint for an official update. (I also heard that Radio Shack may still have a few ...)

Meanwhile, there were still a few cookies left from this morning's launch event at the Westlake store, where I briefly talked to one customer who said he'd buy an Evo if the store had any more in stock.

Here's my review of the Evo 4G, the first phone to use Clearwire's 4G network. I said that it has "network capabilities that may change the way people think about buying wireless and broadband service."

One update: After the review was filed, Qik, the video chat application provider, clarified that the basic video chat features will be free. Premium features, including video archiving and the ability to upload videos to the service, will cost $4.99 a month starting July 15.

A chart that Qik posted, explaining the pricing tiers:

Qik fees.png

Here's a picture of a speed test of the 4G service at my desk -- it was faster when I held it higher and closer to the window:

DSCN1826.JPG

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March 23, 2010 1:56 PM

First 4G Android phone from Sprint & HTC, coming summer

Posted by Brier Dudley

The 4G phone race is on. Sprint and HTC announced a 4G-3G combo phone they'll begin selling this summer.

"Not only is this feature-rich device incredible on our Sprint 3G network, but Sprint 4G speeds will take mobile multimedia, including live video streaming, gaming and picture downloads, to a whole new level," Sprint Chief Executive Dan Hesse said in the release, issued from CTIA.

Pricing of the HTC EVO 4G will be released later, but you can take a leap by pre-registering for the device today at Sprint.com.

The EVO has a 4.3-inch touchscreen 1 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon processor, 8 megapixel autofocus camera with HD-capable video camcorder, plus a forward-facing 1.3 megapixel camera.

It also has a built-in hotspot feature that lets up to eight WiFi devices share its 4G connection. That could make it a great accessory to devices like the WiFi only version of the iPad, or help make friends at a coffee shop or bar with a poor connection.

Spring and HTC poked at Apple in the release, mentioning that the EVO's support of Adobe Flash "ensures that rich Internet content, such as embedded video and animation, are displayed the way they are meant to be seen."

The EVO has the HTC Sense interface, plus features such as a "Friend Stream" that aggregates updates from social networks and a "polite" ringre that quiets a ringing phone when it's picked up, the release said.

News of the device follows Clearwire's announcement that it's bringing 4G service to more cities, including Los Angeles, and will reach 120 million people by the end of the year.

T-Mobile's also talking up improvements to its 3G network, the majority of which will be upgraded to near 4G speeds with HSPA+ technology by year-end, reaching 185 million people.

A few images of the EVO:

sprint4g.JPG

sprint4g2.JPG

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March 18, 2010 10:37 AM

T-Mobile CEO: Talking to Clearwire about hookup

Posted by Brier Dudley

Move the story about Clearwire and T-Mobile USA hooking from "rumor" to "maybe."

Speaking to investors in Frankfurt today, T-Mobile Chief Executive Robert Dotson confirmed the company's been talking to Clearwire and other companies about joint ventures that would give T-Mobile additional spectrum, Reuters reported.

"We continue to look at JV opportunities for additional spectrum... there are a number of different options we look at, (we) have been talking with cable companies, with Clearwire," Dotson said.

Bloomberg reported in September that T-Mobile's parent, Deutsche Telekom, was in talks with Clearwire and others, but it was using unnamed sources and the companies would not comment at the time.

In clarifying the status today, Dotson also downplayed the chances of a merger with Sprint, saying, "What you never want to do is take one company that is going through challenges and take another company going through challenges."

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January 6, 2010 9:05 PM

CES: Sprint's 4G "Overdrive" hotspot, with gang from Seattle

Posted by Brier Dudley

LAS VEGAS -- Sprint hasn't announced a 4G handset yet, but it unveiled a pretty nifty new gadget at a press event tonight at CES.

The company announced the Overdrive, a 4G modem and hotspot device about the size of a pack of cards. Up to five computers and devices can connect to the modem via Wi-Fi, and a sixth can be connected through a USB cable.

Sprint's selling the Overdrive for $99, with a two-year, $60 per month unlimited data plan.

overdrive.jpg

It's an intriguing alternative to DSL service at home, but the Overdrive is also portable - -it works most anywhere, pulling 4G service where it's offered by Sprint partner Clearwire or Sprint 3G if there's no 4G.

Overdrive has an LCD status display and an SD card that creates shared storage for devices connecting to the device. During a demo I was given, one of the devices was powering a laptop, an iPhone running Skype and a Samsung Blu-ray player.

Sprint launched the device at an event in the Venetian packed with current and former Seattlelites, including Sprint CEO Dan Hesse and celebrity chef Mario Batali, who provided a live cooking demonstration beamed from his new Overdrive kitchen hotspot (behind the curtains in the room).

Microsoft Chief Executive Steve Ballmer stopped by to talk up the company's support for Sprint's 4G service, but he didn't mention any new Microsoft products that will tap into the network, being run by Kirkland-based Clearwire.

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January 5, 2010 11:56 AM

CES: Google Nexus ups ante for Microsoft, WinMo7 time?

Posted by Brier Dudley

Google's Nexus One phone isn't as revolutionary as the buzz would suggest. It's basically a really nice touchscreen device running a new processor that supports slick 3-D graphics and services.

But its debut today still ups the ante for Microsoft Chief Executive Steve Ballmer, who is delivering the opening keynote at the Consumer Electronics Show on Wednesday night.

Microsoft is close to releasing Windows Mobile 7, the latest version of its beleagured phone platform. It's supposed to be unveiled at a March developer conference.

Windows Mobile 7 may seem like a Hail Mary given the success of the iPhone and Android devices, but it could put upcoming Microsoft-powered phones on par with the Nexus at least.

Especially if wireless companies use Microsoft's software in conjunction with the new generation of processors that are giving the latest phones the computing power of Windows XP era laptops.

So what can Ballmer do to upstage Google's mobile news at this point?

His best chance may be to announce a 4G Windows Mobile 7 phone that will run on Clearwire and Sprint networks.

It could use the mobile broadband service to stream video (consumer content from Comcast and videoconferencing to justify enterprise sales) and play games across the Xbox Live network.

A nexus of 4G-ready Microsoft partners will be in Vegas this week -- including Sprint, Comcast, Samsung and Toshiba -- so it's not that farfetched.

Google's new online phone store will also have retailers like Best Buy prowling CES in search of devices that keep drawing people into their stores.

So why wait until March?

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November 5, 2009 2:07 PM

More Clearwire exec shuffles

Posted by Brier Dudley

Kirkland 4G broadband provider Clearwire announced more executive changes today, including the addition of new strategy and marketing bosses.

David Maquera, former senior VP at Cricket Communications/Leap Wireless, is SVP and chief strategy officer reporting to CEO Bill Morrow.

Clearwire also hired Thomas Enraght-Moony, a former AT&T Wireless exec and Match.com CEO, as SVP and general manager of Clear Online, heading marketing, advertising and online sales and "customer management."

"David and Thomas bring a record of leadership and depth of experience that further enhance one of the most experienced leadership teams in the mobile industry," Morrow said in the release. "They bring fresh perspectives and insights that will be beneficial to our customers, partners and shareholders. I'm confident that their business acumen and vision will help Clearwire capitalize on the incredible opportunities ahead of us."

Chief Marketing Officer Atish Gude, a Sprint and Nextel veteran, "is leaving Clearwire to pursue new opportunities," the release said.

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October 22, 2009 3:03 PM

Clearwire affirms Seattle launch, with Comcast and Sprint

Posted by Brier Dudley

Clearwire today announced that it's finally launching its 4G broadband service in Seattle in early December, as we first reported in August.

Clearwire partners Sprint and Comcast will simultaneously begin selling the service under their own brands.

The same rollout is happening in Philadelphia in the next few weeks and in Chicago in November.

"Consumers and businesses should expect to see additional network expansions throughout these cities, and a wide range of independent marketing and advertising initiatives," the company said in a release.

The 4G service is geared toward mobile computing and provides downloads up to 4 megabits per second for about $45 per month.

Clearwire is marketing the service with its "Clear" brand, while Comcast will sell it in service bundles as "High-Speed 2Go." Sprint calls it "4G" service.

Clearwire and Sprint will also be launching the service in Charlotte, Greensboro and Raleigh, N.C., and Austin, Dallas-Fort Worth and San Antonio, Texas, in November. They'll start serving Honolulu and Maui in early December.

Clearwire's national rollout of its 4G service began in Portland in January. It's going to succeed the current, pre-4G service that's been offered in Seattle and other markets.

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October 14, 2009 11:58 AM

Future of wireless tech, at IEEE event in Bellevue

Posted by Brier Dudley

If you're curious about the future of wireless networks and devices, the regional chapter of the IEEE has organized a pretty useful sounding workshop in Bellevue on Oct. 30 and 31.

Wireless sensor networks, 4G mobile broadband, personal area networks and wireless medical applications are among the topics that will be covered by speakers from AT&T, Intel, Impinj, Intermec, the University of Washington and other organizations.

But you have to be $275 curious to attend, or $200 if you're an IEEE member. More details about the IEEE Pacific Northwest Wireless Workshop 2009 are at IEEE-Seattle.org.

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September 22, 2009 12:55 PM

Report: T-Mobile may use Clearwire spectrum for 4G

Posted by Brier Dudley

Bloomberg is reporting a potentially huge cross-town collaboration: T-Mobile USA is interested in using Clearwire's spectrum for its 4G service.

The move would help T-Mobile catch up with other U.S. carriers' 4G efforts. It shouldn't be too hard for the Bellevue-based company to work things out with Kirkland-based Clearwire, which needs a cash infusion to finish its initial buildout.

Deutsche Telekom, T-Mobile's Germany-based parent company, is also talking with MetroPCS about spectrum, the report said.

Bloomberg also has a source downplaying the Deutsche Telekom-Sprint merger story that came out last week; maybe that was related to the Clearwire talks.

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August 31, 2009 11:28 AM

Clearwire churns execs, hires ex-Borland boss as CFO

Posted by Brier Dudley

Six months into the job, Clearwire Chief Executive Bill Morrow is changing the company's executive lineup.

The Kirkland wireless broadband company today announced that it hired Erik Prusch, former chief executive of Borland and VP of Intuit's Turbo Tax group, as chief financial officer.

It also hired Teresa Elder as president of strategic partnerships. Elder was formerly chief executive of Vodafone Ireland, a group Morrow led as CEO of Vodafone Europe in 2006.

Prusch is taking the job of CFO David Sach, who "will leave the company to pursue new opportunities," the company said in the release.

Also leaving is chief strategy officer, Scott Richardson, who will continue to serve as a "strategic adviser."

Under the current organization, Morrow will oversee strategy for the company, and product development will be overseen by Chief Commercial Officer Mike Sievert, a former Microsoft Windows marketing boss.

Today's release noted the rest of Clearwire's executive leadership team reporting to Morrow is unchanged. It includes Sievert; CTO John Saw; EVP for strategy, policy and external affairs R. Gerard Salemme; General Counsel Broady Hodder; CIO Kevin Hart; SVP of corporate development Scott Hopper; Chief People Officer Laurent Bentitou; and international President Barry West.

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August 24, 2009 12:00 AM

Q&A with Clearwire CEO Bill Morrow

Posted by Brier Dudley

Here is a fuller version of the edited Q&A with Clearwire CEO Bill Morrow that was the basis for today's column.

Among other things, he talks about how customers of Clearwire's current service will be affected by the network upgrade happening in Seattle in December.

Continue reading this post ...


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July 1, 2009 9:00 PM

Comcast channel shuffles in August, Clearwire bundles in 2010

Posted by Brier Dudley

Comcast is shuffling a bunch of channels in early August in King County, including a few moves related to its digital conversion.

Mostly affected are customers who already have digital cable service.

Starting around Aug. 5, Digital Starter subscribers will start getting high-definition versions of 28 channels such as MTV, Comedy Central, Travel, BET, CNN, MSNBC and Fox News. The full list was printed in the paper's legal notices section.

Digital Preferred customers will get four additional sports channels - NBA TV, NFL Network, NFL Network HD and NHL Network - but lose ESPN Classic to the optional "sports entertainment" tier that costs an extra $5.99 per month.

Also being added is an HD version of CBUT, at channel 619. It will be available to "Limited Basic" customers using an HDTV and a digital tuner.

Comcast spokesman Steve Kipp also provided a little information on the Clearwire 4G/WiMax mobile wireless bundles that Comcast began selling in Portland on Tuesday.

Comcast plans to offer the Clearwire bundles in the Seattle area in 2010, Kipp said.

Portland's promotional price, at least, doesn't sound too bad.

Comcast is offering a $50 per month bundle that includes 12 megabits per second home broadband plus Clearwire mobile service in the metro area, offering up to 4 Mbps. After the first year promo, the plan will cost $73 per month.

Subscribers to Comcast's triple play phone/TV/broadband plan can add Clearwire for $30 per month. It's also offering a Clearwire/Sprint combo that provides local 4G and national 3G via Sprint for an additional $20 per month.

Comcast invested in Clearwire in 2008.

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April 2, 2009 2:20 PM

Free Clearwire 4G for Valley developers, what about Seattle?

Posted by Brier Dudley

To drum up enthusiasm for its 4G Clear service, Clearwire today announced a developer program that will provide a year of free access to a special network for software developers in Silicon Valley.

The idea is to give developers "a head start" on the service that Clearwire will launch next year in the Bay Area. It

By the end of the summer, the "WiMax Innovation Network" will cover 20 miles, including the campuses of Cisco and Clearwire backers Intel and Google and a university in the area.

What about developers in Clearwire's hometown?

A spokeswoman said the Seattle area could get a similar developer program if the one in Silicon Valley works out, although Seattle doesn't need as much of a head start since it's getting Clear service later this year.

"Seattle has a significant amount of developer talent and we look forward to working with them in the future. However, given the location of our active development partners (Google, Cisco, Intel, the university), the development support resources, and the coming availability of our commercial network in Seattle, Silicon Valley felt right as the place to launch the beta network and the developer program,'' spokeswoman Susan Johnston said. "We encourage open development of devices and applications for WiMax and, if successful, we could see an expansion of the program to Seattle."

Tricia Duryee has more from Clearwire's CTIA keynote here.

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March 11, 2009 9:00 PM

Note to Clearwire customers: You'll need an upgrade eventually

Posted by Brier Dudley

Clearwire's upgrade of its network this year will be a mixed blessing for people using its current wireless broadband service.

The new "Clear" service coming to Seattle in the second half of the year will be faster but it won't work with the current Clearwire modems, spokeswoman Susan Johnston confirmed.

There's no word yet on what Clearwire will give customers now using its slower "pre-WiMax" network. Clearwire will continue to operate it simultaneous with the full WiMax network for awhile.

Providing a free hardware upgrade would be a nice gesture. But with the Kirkland company trying to stretch its billions to build out its network, it may only offer discounts.

Johnston said via e-mail that Clearwire "will proactively work with its customers to smoothly transition them to these enhanced mobile WiMax services as they become available. Unfortunately, the current modems aren't compatible with mobile WiMax, but we will make the new service and devices as attractive as possible for our existing customers."

Details should come out closer to the Clear service launch.

Also unclear is how long the current service will operate. Johnston wouldn't say, but noted the company now has enough bandwidth for both. Yet eventually Clear will take the current service's bandwitch.

The current pre-WiMax network offers downloads up to 2 megabits per second in 46 markets across the U.S. The full WiMax Clear service will provide up to 6 megabits.

"We'll have a transition period," Johnston said. "In other words, our existing customer won't be forced to migrate and upgrade to WiMax."

Not for a while, at least.

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March 9, 2009 1:28 PM

Clearwire exec shuffle: new CEO, Wolff joins McCaw as co-chairman

Posted by Brier Dudley

Clearwire co-founder Ben Wolff is stepping down as chief executive, the Kirkland-based wireless broadband company announced today.

Taking his place is William Morrow, a former AirTouch and Vodafone executive who most recently was chief executive of Pacific Gas & Electric in San Francisco.

The shuffle comes a few days after Clearwire announced that it's slowing the pace of its network expansion to conserve cash. It's still expanding to major metro areas and the Seattle area should get its faster Clear service later this year.

In the release, McCaw called out Morrow's telecom experience.

"Years of experience in key positions with great companies such as AirTouch and Vodafone have given Bill a great perspective on achieving operating efficiencies and enhancing value creation to profitably build and scale businesses," McCaw said. "This experience, coupled with his outstanding leadership capabilities, makes Bill the perfect choice to lead Clearwire. I have every confidence that he has the capability, intelligence and dedication to inspire the exemplary team at Clearwire to fulfill the dream of making the power of the Internet truly mobile."

Morrow has lots of experience running wireless organizations abroad, having led Vodafone's British and Japanese operations, so perhaps we'll hear soon about Clearwire's international plans.

The shift was announced after the market closed. Clearwire closed up 4 percent at $2.93, but has recently been down about 2 percent in after-hours trading.

Wolff "will focus on Clearwire's strategic and financing opportunities," the release said. He'll also continue to serve on the CTIA board and as president of McCaw's Eagle River investment company.

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March 5, 2009 3:30 PM

Seattle area getting faster Clearwire later this year

Posted by Brier Dudley

Clearwire's finally bringing its faster broadband service to its hometown this year.

During the company's earnings report today, it said Seattle is among the metro areas getting the faster service it now offers in Portland and Baltimore.

A spokeswoman couldn't provide specific timing but said Seattle will get the service in the second half of 2009.

Clearwire also said - in its amazingly complicated earnings release - that it's going to launch a dual mode 4G/3G modem this summer. Perhaps that will coincide with the Seattle launch.

Chicago, Atlanta, Philadelphia, Dallas, Las Vegas, Honolulu and Charlotte will also get the service this year. New York, Boston, Houston, San Francisco and Washington, D.C., are getting it next year.

Update: The spokeswoman said that's just a sample; the company expects to cover more than 80 markets by the end of 2010.

Clearwire had sales of $20 million and a net loss of $188 million in the December quarter.

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