Jeff Thompson is the CEO of Towerstream, a fixed WiMAX service provider that offers services in nine U.S. markets. So why is he so jazzed about the combination of Xohm and Clearwire, creating what amounts to a U.S. WiMAX powerhouse?
Thompson sees a lot of reasons for optimism. For one thing, a lot of questions were swirling about WiMAX in the United States, “and I think those questions are gone now, and the risk is gone,” he said after yesterday’s Clearwire announcement, which included news that Intel, Google, Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks will collectively invest $3.2 billion into the new Clearwire.
For another, one of the purposes of WiMAX is to get the device costs down, just as the Wi-Fi standard did for devices with Wi-Fi. Even though Towerstream’s current service is deployed as a fixed model, the company chose to go with the mobile WiMAX standard to achieve economies of scale. So, the Clearwire deal should go a long way in achieving that.
Whereas Clearwire has gone after the consumer market, Towerstream focuses on businesses, he said. Towerstream’s markets include New York, Chicago, Dallas/Fort Worth, Miami, Seattle, Los Angeles, Boston, the San Francisco Bay Area and Providence/Newport, R.I. The company plans to expand into more markets but not until its existing markets are EBITDA positive, he said. That generally takes about 12 months.
Towerstream isn’t the only one singing praise for the Sprint Xohm/Clearwire hook-up. Nortel Networks already works with several of the deal’s players in some capacity or other. Nortel is not a vendor in the Sprint Xohm project, but it is a vendor for Sprint’s 3G network, and it provides a VoIP component for Clearwire, as well as solutions for Comcast. “We hope the relationships we have … translate into positive things in the future as well,” said Danny Locklear, director of wireless product marketing at Nortel.
“It’s definitely a nice shot in the arm to the industry in general,” he said of the combination. WiMAX is prevalent in buildouts around the world, but until now, its fate in the United States was less certain.
Of course, backhaul is a big concern for building any type of 4G networks. It’s one reason Sprint reportedly cited for not making the April timeframe for a commercial launch. 4G technologies like WiMAX and LTE generally add about five times the capacity or throughput as 3G networks, so the backhaul systems need to be prepared for that.
Worldwide, Nortel, which is working in the development of both LTE and WiMAX, is providing CPE devices and data cards as well for WiMAX, in some cases with ODMs.