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September 10, 2007

Clearwire partners with ICO

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 4:21 PM

Clearwire, the Kirkland-based company that is helping to build a nationwide wireless broadband network using WiMax, said today it is partnering with ICO Global Communications, a satellite company.

The joint agreement will include collaborating on mobile video trials -- starting early next year in Raleigh, N.C. ICO is also planning a similar trial in Las Vegas, Nev.

Although ICO is based in Reston, Va., it has very close ties to Clearwire.

For starters, its human resources and finance office is based in Kirkland, near Clearwire. Also, Clearwire founder and Chairman Craig McCaw is an investor and the chairman of ICO's board. Overall, the company's board includes some of the top executives from Clearwire's ranks, including Gerard Salemme, a Clearwire executive vice president, and Ben Wolff, Clearwire's CEO.

The press release issued today said the collaboration between the two will test connecting wireless broadband and satellite TV, allowing for interactive mobile video -- something that is gaining attention as wireless and entertainment worlds start to merge. People are starting to look at how joint relationships could be more valuable than just combining mobile and TV on one bill (I explored that topic in this story on the so-called triple and quadruple play).

"Our next generation wireless personal broadband networks are built to deliver data, voice and video over a single network," said Scott Richardson, Clearwire's chief strategy officer. He said it makes sense to work with ICO to test "an interactive mobile video element" that can add to Cleawire's offerings in areas where it doesn't plan to build its nework, while also enhancing the use of infrastructure and spectrum where the coverage overlaps.

Tim Bryan, ICO's CEO also weighed in by saying, "We are well positioned to be the first provider of next-generation mobile satellite services, and we have a clearly differentiated offering by leveraging integrated satellite and terrestrial networks to deliver advanced consumer mobility services."

Who knows exactly what the trial will look like for users, but the company said ICO will provide multiple TV channels to "large-screen user devices."

Alcatel-Lucent will supply the system architecture and design based on mobile multimedia DVB-SH (an open standard, unlike Qualcomm's MediaFlo mobile TV proprietary technology, which is used by Verizon Wireless and others). Hughes Network Systems will provide the device as well as interactive elements.

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Tricia Duryee
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