McCaw Plans Wireless Challenge to Cable, DSL

By Roy Mark

June 02, 2004

Cellular pioneer rolling out broadband service in Florida this summer with more markets online for later this year.

WASHINGTON -- Cellular pioneer Craig McCaw plans to launch a wireless plug-and-play broadband service as a competitive option to cable modems and DSL.

Delivering the keynote address at the annual Wireless Communications Association (WCA) convention, McCaw said his new company, Clearwire, is ready to offer service in Jacksonville, Fla., this summer and is currently testing the service in St. Cloud, Minn. Clearwire expects to launch the service in other markets both in the United States and internationally over the next 12 months.

Plug-and-play technology offers customers the advantage of no software downloads and, according to Clearwire, a customer can typically be online within 15 minutes of plugging the device into a computer.

For Clearwire, the technology promises the huge cost-savings of no "truck rolls" for customer installation.

"We would like to work with all elements of the industry working against the incumbents," McCaw told several hundred WCA members. "Clearly there's a need and people are in need [of lower cost broadband]."

The founder of one of the country's first cellular networks, which he later sold to AT&T for $11.5 billion, and a current investor in Nextel, McCaw bought into a non-line-of-sight (NLOS) broadband plug-and-play hardware company last summer known as NextNet.

In March, McCaw's investment company, Eagle River, bought Clearwire Holding Company, which has spectrum rights in a number of markets around the country. Since then, there has been ongoing speculation about McCaw's next play.

"Success in delivering services that broadband consumers desire will require both a global reach to achieve economies of scale, and a level of control over the technology that powers the service," McCaw said in a statement released Wednesday afternoon.

NextNet technology has been commercially deployed for over two years and is installed in 20 markets around the world, including Mexico, Canada, the U.S., Asia, Africa and the Caribbean. Clearwire will use this technology platform modified with its own proprietary technology to power its IP-based wireless network.

"We believe in the NLOS, plug-and-play technology that NextNet has developed and, in combination with our own proprietary technology, view it as an important part of our plans," Clearwire Chief Technology Officer Rob Mechaley said. "We have a second generation chipset in the market now, with a third generation planned for next year. We intend to be very involved in the future evolution of the technology as we look to expand the services we can provide."

McCaw who will serve as the Clearwire's chairman and chief executive officer. He said Wednesday he has assembled a number of "experienced wireless technologists and business executives who have successfully commercialized wireless technology into successful businesses in the past."

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