Clearwire hopes that 160 MHz of spectrum and an LTE overlay will bolster its flagging business over the next few years, according to Hope Cochran, the company’s CFO, in remarks made at the Goldman Sachs Investor Conference, which were broadcast in a webcast online.
Cochran touted Clearwire’s 120 million POPs covered by WiMAX, saying that the company’s primary objectives for 2011 have been to trim costs and let the new network “do its job and operate.”
As Clearwire has already stated, the company’s next step is to bring LTE to the network. Cochran said capital needed for initial rollouts in high usage areas has been pegged at right around $600 million. She said that the company is currently looking to secure vendor financing to cover much of the initial equipment costs.
“I think [vendors] are willing and ready and would love for us to buy equipment from them,” Cochran said, adding that Clearwire sees the option to auction off some of its spectrum as a purely opportunistic, last ditch scenario.
Clearwire will model its LTE rollout on what China Mobile has already done. China Mobile, which operates on the same 2.5 GHz band of spectrum as does Clearwire, has chosen TD-LTE, as opposed to FD-LTE, which both Verizon Wireless and AT&T opted for.
Chochran minimized the decision to part from FD-LTE, saying that Qualcomm is already working on creating dual-mode chips that include both FD-LTE and TD-LTE. China Mobile and Clearwire earlier this month announced a partnership to cultivate a more robust device ecosystem that supports multi-mode, multi-band devices with minimum component complexity and cost.
When asked how Cochran felt about the proposed merger of AT&T and T-Mobile, she said it really wasn’t a concern for Clearwire but added that because both carriers have already said they need more spectrum, she didn’t think that combining the two would really go too far in remedying the situation for either one.
As for Clearwire’s long-standing relationship with Sprint, which uses Clearwire’s network for its WiMAX offering, Cochran said that the two companies continue to work closely with one another by partnering on network expansion to reduce costs for both companies.
Recent rumors that Sprint could possibly get an iPhone could have an effect on the number of people on Clearwire’s network. Cochran declined to speak to those rumors, but added that Sprint provides a quarterly forecast to Clearwire, which keeps them informed of and prepared for changes in usage on the network.