Friday, July 20, 2007

Clearwire CEO stresses positives of venture (Seattle P.I.)

By JOHN COOK
P-I REPORTER

Clearwire Chief Executive Ben Wolff discussed the Sprint Nextel partnership Thursday with the Seattle P-I, saying that the 20-year agreement is "positive in a number of ways."

Here are excerpts from that conversation:

On a new consumer brand:

"There will be a new consumer brand, a co-brand if you will, that both we and Sprint are involved with. That doesn't mean that Clearwire or Sprint will go away, but the ingredient brand will be something that is recognized by the public as a brand that identifies with personal broadband and mobile Internet services."

Wolff declined to say if a name had been chosen, adding that "it is a work in process." But he said Clearwire will continue to operate as a "parent brand" for the service.

On how the markets will be divided:

"When you look at the top 200 markets in the country, we actually will end up building out a little more than half.... They (Sprint Nextel) certainly have a larger concentration of the biggest cities, but we will be building some of the top 10 markets in the country, some of the top 25 and some of the top 50. So, as much as our business so far has been a mix of urban and suburban and rural markets, it will continue to be so.... It is really about regional operating efficiencies. When we ultimately talk publicly about what our regional operating markets will be, you'll see that the way the responsibilities are assumed by each company, it is really based on regions of the country. When you think about different regions of the country, they are always a mix of different market sizes."

On whether Clearwire considered a sale or merger:

"I would say that a variety of different options and structures were considered by the companies and discussed, and at this point our mutual conclusion is that the most optimal way to get the country built out with a mobile WiMax network is to pursue the structure that we have today, both from a capital efficiency perspective and from the standpoint of the focus of each of the teams."

On how much Clearwire will have to spend to build out its portion of the network:

"That we haven't either finalized or publicly disclosed. ...Realize that this is an announcement based on a letter of intent, and now there is an awful lot of work to do to figure out -- for both companies -- exactly what all of the details will mean."

On the importance of the deal:

"First we wind up with customers having the ability to effectively have the benefit of a nationwide mobile WiMax network without having to have either one of the companies -- but Clearwire, more specifically -- incur the cost associated with a nationwide build. That is a tremendous benefit. It is also, frankly, a benefit for us to leverage some of Sprint's existing infrastructure, so when you think about our ability to access their cell towers and some of their nationwide fiber assets ... they can be useful both from a time-to-market and a cost perspective for us."

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