Clearwire Ushers in New CEO

By Michelle Megna

March 12, 2009

Clearwire's strategy to make WiMAX a success in the U.S. includes shuffling the deck and naming a new CEO.

WiMAX company Clearwire yesterday named William T. Morrow as its new CEO while it races to execute an ambitious plan for a nationwide mobile broadband network ahead of the competition and before its investor financing dries up.

In the executive shuffle, Clearwire Co-Founder and current CEO Benjamin G. Wolff will continue with the company as co-chairman, a position he will share with current Chairman Craig O. McCaw.

Dubbed a "turn-around guru" by industry insiders, Morrow served as president and CEO of Pacific Gas & Electric in San Francisco where he oversaw operations and directed an overhaul aimed at improving the company's efficiency, supply chain, and customer focus.

Morrow also served in a number of senior executive positions at international mobile communications group Vodafone Ltd. and Vodafone Group PLC, including CEO of Vodafone, Europe, CEO of Vodafone UK Ltd., and president of Vodafone KK in Japan. He was also President of Japan Telecom Co. and held senior executive positions with wireless telecommunications carrier AirTouch International.

"Clearwire's business model and unique assets have us well-positioned to meet the rapidly growing demand for mobile broadband services," said Morrow in a statement. "I'm excited at the prospect of working with everyone at Clearwire as we execute our plan to build a mobile WiMAX network covering up to 120 million people in more than 80 markets by 2010."

Indeed, that's the challenge, as some of the company's key backers have already had to take write-downs on their investments because the firm's stock has declined in value as the economic meltdown continues.

The company recently reported that it generated about $20.5 million in revenue and lost $118 million in the fourth quarter of 2008.

But some industry watchers remain upbeat about the potential of WiMAX adoption. ABI Research principal analyst Philip Solis says growth will be more modest for WiMAX base stations by themselves for 2009, but 2010 will see healthy expansion. "To ignore a growth market in a down economy would be a mistake," said Solis.

And, Clearwire does have an impressive roster of allies. The $14.5 billion WiMAX project is a partnership between Sprint  and Clearwire with a total of $3.2 billion chipped in by Intel, Google, Comcast, Time Warner Cable, and cable provider Bright House Networks.

The goal: offering customers high-speed wireless connectivity that trumps Wi-Fi and other networking standards, such as Long-Term Evolution (LTE), the 4G networking approach favored by Verizon Wireless.

WiMAX (and LTE for that matter) are often called "Wi-Fi on steroids" for the level of always-on connectivity, real-time multimedia experiences, and robust applications it can support for a variety of devices.

The promise of WiMAX that everyone is betting on?

It offers a transmission speed more than five times faster than some current wireless networks. It lets users send huge data files from a smartphone, switch from a mobile phone network to a LAN without redialing, share documents in real-time video conferences, and essentially transport all the benefits of an office's networked PC to conduct business on the road.

For more on WiMAX, read the following:

  •  WiMAX Struggles to Find a Foothold in Western Europe[February 25, 2009] It’s an uphill climb for WiMAX in the land 3G created. In the second installment of our look at WiMAX around the globe, we focus our attention on western Europe.
  • WiMAX Faces Tough Competition from 3G in UK[January 23, 2009] WiMAX needs a stiff upper lip in the UK where prospects for WiMAX service providers don’t look great. In the first installment of our series on WiMAX around the globe, we take a look at the market in the UK and Ireland.

  • WiMAX, 4G, and the Enterprise (Part 1)[December 18, 2008] In the first installment of this three-part series of articles on 4G and its potential impacts on the enterprise, we'll start by exploring exactly what it is--and isn't--and how the next-generation mobile world might unfold.

For more on Clearwire, read:

  • Portland, OR Gets WiMAX[January 7, 2009] Sprint and Clearwire's "Clear" WiMAX service, which debuted in Baltimore last fall, has arrived on the other coast.

  • WiMAX Provider Sues Sprint/Clearwire[January 7, 2009] A Texas WiMAX service provider has filed suit against Sprint Nextel and Clearwire claiming the carriers have infringed on six of its communications-related patents.

  • The Sprint/Clearwire Breakup [November 27, 2007] On Friday, November 9th, Sprint and Clearwire announced the termination of their letter of intent (LOI), signed in July, to work together on a nationwide WiMAX network. As a Sprint press release explained at the time, “The two companies could not resolve complexities associated with the LOI and failed to reach final agreement on the terms of the transaction.”

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