Clearwire buys AT&T WiMAX spectrum

Craig McCaw knows two things about wireless – building a network is a long, tedious and expensive process, and you can never have enough spectrum. That is why he has raised around a billion dollars from investors for his latest wireless broadband network operator, Clearwire.

Now the Kirkland, Washington-based company, which is planning an IPO, will acquire a slice of 2.5 GHz spectrum from AT&T for about $300 million. The spectrum is for markets located in the Southeast of the United States and previously belonged to BellSouth. This spectrum will add to Clearwire’s position as one of the largest holders of 2.5 GHz spectrum in the U.S, after Sprint Nextel.

As a condition of the AT&T/BellSouth merger, AT&T had to sell off that spectrum. Clearwire had been pretty vocal supporting that term, according to this report by Jupiter Research. McCaw and the Bell companies have a long history together — McCaw’s McCaw Cellular was purchased by AT&T Wireless back in the day.

Buying spectrum is only part of Clearwire’s challenges. The company has to acquire more customers (the company has around 200,000 to date, in the U.S. and globally), and has to add mobility to its fixed wireless network.

An IPO will help raise the much needed cash, which could bring in around $480 million. That’s on top of the roughly $1 billion the company raised from investors like Motorola and Intel. You’ve got to spend money to make it (they hope), and according to regulatory filings for the 9 months ending September 30, 2006 the company reported a net loss of $191.85 million.

Neverthless, with more spectrum under his belt, McCaw should not have many problems convincing investors that they are investing in the future of wireless. Or something like that!