Just off a merger with a Sprint Nextel unit, Clearwire replaces Sprint's "Xohm" brand with "Clear."
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Clearwire said today that it will sell its wireless broadband services under the brand name Clear, eventually replacing the Xohm brand that partner Sprint Nextel has used since September.
The Kirkland company completed its merger with Sprint’s WiMax network Friday. Similar to the WiFi signals available at coffee shops and airports, WiMax technology can cover an entire city and offer faster data speeds than most current cellular broadband networks.
Sprint began offering WiMax service in Baltimore in September but hasn’t disclosed how many customers have signed up. Clearwire plans to begin selling WiMax in Portland in the first quarter of 2009 and already has about 400,000 customers on a pre-WiMax network in 46 cities.
Chief Executive Officer Ben Wolff, making his first public announcements since the merger, told analysts and reporters during a conference call that the company will focus on upgrading that system to WiMax next year, as well as opening commercial service in several other cities.
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The company will release a more detailed expansion plan early next year after the new company’s board of directors meets, Wolff said.
Overland Park, Kan.-based Sprint will own 51 percent of the company, while investors in the original Clearwire, founded by cellular pioneer Craig McCaw, will own about 22 percent.
The remainder of the company will be owned by investors including Comcast, Intel, Time Warner Cable, Google and Bright House Networks, which have put in a total $3.2 billion in cash.
Wolff stressed that the company will operate independently of its partners, who he said will not have control over how the network is expanded.
But he said the cable partners will be able to sell the WiMax services to their customers under their own brands as part of bundled offerings. That will also allow customers of different cable providers to continue accessing the WiMax network even if they leave their home region.
Wolff also said the network would be accessible to any WiMax-capable device and eventually may be compatible with LTE, or Long-Term Evolution, a rival fourth-generation wireless technology being developed overseas and by domestic carriers like Verizon Wireless.
“If you wind up with a big ecosystem of LTE devices, we want to make it as easy as possible to let customers come onto our network,” he said in an interview, noting that current wireless providers shun customers who aren’t using devices compatible with their technology. “We don’t think we ought to hem customers in that way.”
Stifel Nicolaus analyst Christopher King said in a research note that Clearwire still faces a tough job selling the public on a new technology that is currently available in only a handful of markets “as well as a several billion dollar funding gap to fully fund the company’s business plan of a true nationwide WiMax network.”
While the stock market plunged today, Clearwire shares closed up 88 cents, or 13.3 percent, at $7.50.