Clearwire is about halfway through its plan to sell off some of its excess spectrum, CFO Erik Prusch said just days after the company raised more than $1.1 billion in debt funding to keep itself operational.
Despite last week’s cash infusion, the financially strapped WiMAX operator is still looking for outside investors and is auctioning off “the spectrum we don’t plan on using any time soon,” Prusch said, speaking at the UBS Global Media and Communications Conference this morning.
“We’re rounding second and heading to third in terms of the spectrum auction,” Prusch said, cautioning that it’s still not clear whether the company will go ahead with a sale. “There are a lot of parties interested in the spectrum.”
Prusch also said the company is considering selling its spectrum to multiple companies, versus selling it to just one operator. Reuters reported that Prusch told the press after his presentation that Clearwire could receive up to $2 billion from a spectrum auction.
Clearwire needs the cash to continue building out its mobile broadband network, which faces fresh competition from Verizon’s newly launched LTE network. Clearwire currently covers about 103 million people and needs additional funding to move ahead with its plans to cover 250 million people. Verizon’s LTE network covers 110 million people and the company says it is working to cover its entire 3G footprint with its next-generation mobile broadband network.
Prusch declined to comment on whether T-Mobile is planning to invest in Clearwire, but said the company was “still talking to a number of players” about new investment deals.
Clearwire’s financial woes have forced it to suspend the launch of retail services in Denver and Miami and Prusch said the company hasn’t determined its 2011 retail plans yet because of the funding issue. He suggested the company may not have a retail presence in all of its markets, saying “it doesn’t mean we have to be solely the retail distribution or even that we’re going to be a piece of it going forwards.”
The company has also halted zoning and permitting for new cell sites for next year. Prusch said the company would talk more about its plans for restarting that process during its fourth-quarter conference call, and that Clearwire was still evaluating how much investment to place in network density, smartphones, coverage and retail.