Clearwire postpones spectrum sell-off

Clearwire has announced the postponement of plans to sell off radio spectrum this year in an effort to raise funds. Following record subscriber growth of 1.8 million in the first quarter of the year and a revenue increase of over $130m, CFO Hope Cochrane said that “With the near-term capital needs of our current business now satisfied, we will be extremely judicious with our spectrum assets.”

Despite the growth, Clearwire posted substantial losses over the quarter, reporting a net loss of $227m; a $1bn agreement with Sprint Nextel which will see the latter paying $16.1m retroactively  for the quarter has helped boost revenues somewhat, with the telco insisting it has enough gas in the tank to continue operating for at least the next 12 months. Sprint is the majority shareholder in Clearwire.

Compared to its rivals, Clearwire has significant spectrum holdings. Prior to the announcement of its proposed merger with AT&T, T-Mobile USA was widely believed to be interested in buying spectrum from Clearwire, which got an early lead on many of its rivals in rolling out LTE networks before financial difficulties slowed things down. The company has, nonetheless, expanded its LTE/4G coverage during the quarter, with new COO Erik Prusch saying that 126 million total domestic POPs had been added,  primarily by building certain suburban and rural areas in fulfilment of licensing requirements. Prusch added that Clearwire’s network currently covers approximately 130 million POPs, “including two thirds of the population of the top 100 US markets where our spectrum is most needed and most valuable.”

Chairman and interim CEO John Stanton said that he believed the company “has the best spectrum position in the industry, on average, 160MHz of spectrum in the top markets,” adding “that’s more than the combined AT&T-T-Mobile company would have if their merger is approved.”

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