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December 2008

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What does it say about Patents

December 22, 2008

Adaptix filed against Clearwire / Sprint on the subject of the WiMAX patents. 

I do not know enough about the case to be useful and the history of infringement has lots of legitimate complaints, but in general when a vendor sues a service provider the relationship is strained.

Their have been some great patents associated with some dog products.  In my brief history on remote access I was very impressed with how Alcatel-Lucent kept acquiring all the good patents from companies that were clever but could not survive. (Does anyone remember Farallon?)

My sense is that Adaptix has put itself in play with this patent lawsuit.  If they relationship is strainged and they are not the vendor of choice, assuming no malice, the patents are more valuable then the product. 

On the other hand, it may be that Adaptix has a legitimate concern that can be addressed with the proper attention.

My own hope is this gets resolved soon.

The Sprint WiMax/3G Card: (Almost) Ready to Roam

December 19, 2008

The question about how WiMax provider Clearwire would answer the national-roaming question got a little bit clearer Wednesday, when Sprint officially announced its long-promised 3G/4G hybrid device, a USB dongle that lets a laptop user connect to both Clearwire's WiMax and Sprint's 3G cellular networks.

For right now, that former option means one city -- Baltimore -- where the service previously known as Xohm has been running since September. But Todd Rowley, vice president of Sprint's 4G business unit, told us Wednesday that the new device will work in all the networks being readied by the new Clearwire, starting with Portland, Ore., sometime "by the end of Q1."

Without getting too much into specifics, it isn't the technology holding the card back but Sprint's back-end ability to support it on the "Clear" networks -- like Portland's, whi  ch is set to publicly launch Jan. 6. So yes, Rowley said, the device will eventually allow roaming users to link up with Clear WiMax networks wherever they may be launched, maybe not right when they launch but soon after.
In terms of value, the hybrid device is kind of a hybrid offering -- it's not as cheap as the straight-WiMax    offerings and it comes with the standard (for cellular data) two-year contract and early termination fees. You also can't use the 3G service for VoIP calls (and it ha  s bandwidth restrictions), though Skype over the 4G service should work just fine, Rowley said.

Is Evolution just a slower form of Revolution?

December 17, 2008

Today's Wall Street Journal warns about the issues facing Clearwire in building out there nationwide network.  The question of their readily available of $3.2B capital and whether they will need to put in two or three more times that to roll out nationwide.

Ben Wolfe indicated he was willing to grow based on revenue in a scaled down approach if the markets were not available to him, and the possibility of selling spectrum was hinted at.

I am not sure if Clearwire can have the same strategy as some of the nationwide fiber networks had of selling off portions of the spectrum to fund their own deployment, but recently people have been talking to me about shared spectrum strategies.  Mostly about White space, but we can make the case for these kind of strategies for Clearwire. 

Remember also the investors intend to use Clearwire as a wholesaler / whitelabel for some of their product. That could be another way to access capital and grow without impacting the capital.

All of this said still begs the question?  What is the window of opportunity for WiMAX?  Massive roll out ahead of the LTE deployments of Verizon and ATT or tactical and slower deployments based on market driven opportunities?

Clearwire representatives like Shawn Molodow who will speak at our event sounds very agressive.  But like a Texas Holdem game the river card is where the pay off occurs.

The Evolution Continues - Nortel

December 16, 2008

I am not an analyst so don't expect this to be about Nortel's issues with solvency.  For that you can go to the Wall Street Journal.

In that article one statement hit me.  "Nortel has been reeling from the sudden drop in demand for its voice-only wireless equipment, cutting costs and trying to sell assets to survive the recession."  

This is the issue the carriers are facing and making a choice.  They are opting to support data, because of the demand for the wireless Internet and that opportunity is going to be steam rolling in all the carriers.

Voice only has been a hard sell for a while, and Nortel to its credit has been developing some good products that tie into the data world.

When I visit carrier friends, I often find that Nortel is a key component of their vendor strategy, so it will be interesting to see how their woes play out.  

Verizon Ups the Ante and then Blinks

December 12, 2008

Last week the news was all about Clearwire and the $3.2B spend on WiMAX with perhaps some LTE in the future, this week Verizon trumped the spend with over $9B being spent to accelerate their LTE rollout to some area in the US.

All that money going back into the network but where?  The chipsets are the first thing that is talked about Sandbridge, and Qualcomm providing chips for devices on the horizon. The backbone needs an upgrade on both the backhaul and the cell towers.

And yet, if we look over at the GPON driven FIOS and the recent gaffs about 100MB to the home we can still wonder exactly what will be done?

While Verizon execs said they could deliver, based on tests 100MB to the home with FIOS, others in the company had to explain that no plans to roll out this solution as a service was in the works based on customer demand.

Which makes me wonder, if they can't find demand for 100MBs in the home, how are they going to find it for a mobile device?

Then again, speaking about the future is not the same as selling it. 

Let the Market drive us forward.

Consumer Guide to WiMax: Now Free!

December 8, 2008

Want a detailed explanation of the recent launch of WiMax services in Baltimore, and how WiMax's combination of speed, mobility, and innovative pricing might satisfy the growing consumer demand for an always-on Internet experience? Then download the Sidecut Reports Consumer Guide to WiMax, now available for free download from the Sidecut Reports site.

Prepared in an easy-to-read style with deep background material for those who may not have understood WiMax before, the 22-page report provides a thorough explanation of the technology, devices, applications and consumer use of the country's newest form of wireless broadband access service.

As the new Clearwire starts rolling out its service markets in 2009, consumers and small business users alike can use the guide to help determine how they might best take advantage of the introduction of "4G" wireless Internet access when it comes to their hometown.

The free report download also serves as the official kickoff for the Sidecut Reports WiMaxWeek weekly newsletter, a convenient way to stay abreast of all our blog posts from the week, as well as top WiMax news from across the Web and special offers from Sidecut Reports. Stay tuned for more news from Sidecut Reports and our plans for 2009, which is shaping up to be a big year for WiMax in the U.S. marketplace.

Clearwire's Wolff: 'Full Speed Ahead' with WiMax

December 6, 2008

Despite what you may have read, heard or thought, there is no chance of Clearwire Corp. (NASDAQ: CLWRD) abandoning WiMax technology anytime soon. Though Clearwire CEO Ben Wolff did talk Monday about the possibility of adding support for Long Term Evolution (LTE) to Clearwire's technology mix sometime in the future, in an interview Thursday morning Wolff left no doubt that Clearwire is solidly behind WiMax, and considers it the best (and only) 4G wireless technology currently available for deployment.

"We have no doubts that we made the right decision" to pick WiMax as the technology for its wireless network rollout, said Wolff in a phone interview. "We are going full-speed ahead with WiMax. It offers a more robust [Internet] experience, at a more economic price point, than any other technology available today."

The confusion over Clearwire's commitment to WiMax came in the wake of a Monday conference call, which was used mainly to report the details of the completion of the merger of Clearwire with Sprint's WiMax assets, and the new branding of its "Clear" WiMax services. At one point in the call, Wolff talked briefly about the possibility of Clearwire adding support for LTE in the future, should the standard become widely adopted and deployed.

Feedback from Friends LTE Advanced vs WiMAX

December 5, 2008

A recent conversation with a Sprint/Clearwire friend, and confirmed 4GWE ( speaker, led to a discussion of the role of the wireless device in the 4G network of the future. His take on this was fairly straightforward - service for WiMAX devices will be cheaper and the devices will be based on open access to the full use of the Internet for communication and entertainment applications. It is the belief of Sprint/Clearwire that these WiMAX devices, with their ability to access high speed mobile broadband applications, will clearly be the winner in consumer and enterprise adoption.

This email I shared with friends yesterday, got some interesting responses.  This one from a friend who has been in the Wireless device manufacture space for ages was a great example.  It started simple.

Friend:> Dream on baby !

To which I replied.

Santa is coming in 20 days ;<).

Seriously, for a moment given your history, give me your opinion how important is the PAPR issue and is SC-FDMA the way that LTE Advanced wins?

When I look at all those WiMAX dongles connecting to PC's I think the premise for some of the debate is wrong.

What do you see?  Are MIDs viable?  Can I expect to see no innovation in batteries?

And the push back came in this way.

Friend:> First: What is 4G ? Pls define what you are talking about !

It's Clear and out of the Xohm!

December 2, 2008

The press conference celebrating the completion of the Clearwire deal made news on a number of fronts  The first was that Xohm was gone. The new name is "Clear", which is at least that when it comes to spelling.

No longer waiting to be free, CEO Ben Wolff explained that the company was going to deliver an Open network that had the benefit of more spectrum than their competitiors combined.

The more amazing turn of events was the discussion that LTE Advanced maybe in the cards for Clearwire afterall.  This was also hedged by the selling of dual mode 3G / 4G WiMAX devices sometimes next year with Sprint.
While the difference between WiMAX and LTE Advance is minor the statement that LTE can be part of their future is a concession that they may not be able to deliver the WiMAX mobility devices at the price points they want.

While the vision is much like the announcements of Level 3 in the late 90s, the 3.2 Billion investment comes from their investors who intend to wholesale their services Brighthouse, Comcast, Google, Intel, Sprint, and Time Warner.
What should be particularly interesting is the possibility of Google Android devices that are not specifically phones.

Clearwire Mum on Xohm Launches, Says LTE a Possibility

December 1, 2008

The new Clearwire just concluded its first conference call with analysts and press types, and while some questions did get answered there were more questions raised by the quick interaction, including a declaration that Clearwire might switch from WiMax to Long Term Evolution (LTE) as a technology base sometime in the future.

While declaring mobile WiMax as the best technology currently available for 4G services, Clearwire CEO Ben Wolff said that LTE (which has been embraced by AT&T and Verizon for their respective 4G wireless data plans) will most likely gain some traction, and as such will be considered as a possible future alternative for Clearwire.

"Mobile WiMax and LTE have a lot in common," said Wolff, who added that Clearwire will build its network infrastructure in such a fashion that will allow the company to move to, or add LTE technology "if we decide it makes sense to do so."

While such a switch would be at least two or three years in the future, some more immediate Clearwire concerns -- including the pending launches of WiMax services in Chicago and Washington, D.C. -- were put on hold, at least until the company's new board of directors can convene for strategic talks. Though Clearwire merger partner Sprint had talked confidently of launching its Xohm-branded services in Chicago and D.C. before the end of 2008, Wolff said Monday that the company didn't have any launch news to share.

"We need to get together with the new board and walk the board through [the planned network launches]," Wolff said.

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