Clearwire May See Growth With Second 4G Phone Launch, New Markets

Clearwire’s fourth-generation wireless broadband network can’t be successful without growing its subscriber base. And, there’s no reason to be a customer if A) it doesn’t work where you live, and B) there’s no phone or device available that you would buy.

But both Clearwire (NSDQ: CLWR) — and its majority owner Sprint (NYSE: S) — have been making recent progress on those fronts. Today, Sprint announced it will offer the Samsung Epic, the second 4G-capable phone, and Clearwire said it is offering 4G in three new markets (St. Louis, Richmond, Va., and Salt Lake City) for a total of 36 markets. Not too long ago, Clearwire also unveiled three new devices that provided WiMax connectivity for both Macs and PCs.

Obviously, there’s still a number of reasons will people would not adopt the technology — outside availability and devices — but, it will help tremendously if Clearwire’s reseller partners show interest in selling state-of-the-art devices.

The Kirkland, Wash.-based company has plans to offer phones directly to its customers, too, but has not launched anything to date. In the first quarter, Clearwire had a total of 971,000 subscribers, jumping 94 percent year-over-year. During those three months, Clearwire added 283,000 new subscribers by itself, but its partners brought in an impressive 111,000 wholesale additions. Amazingly, more than one-third of its wholesale subscribers had devices that were capable of connecting to the 4G market, even though they resided outside of its territory. (Despite that discrepancy, Clearwire still receives monthly recurring revenue from those users).

Both the Samsung Epic, the second 4G-capable phone that Sprint is selling, and the HTC EVO 4G, will probably only help to boost those figures more this year.

Sprint has not said when the Epic will go on sale, or how much it will cost, but it has a slide-out keyboard, a 4-inch high-resolution display and says users will be able to download from “a full library of video and literary content powered by some of the biggest names in entertainment.” The Android-powered phone also comes with two cameras, and the ability to share a WiFi connection with five devices at the same time. The device is not exclusive to Sprint, although its 4G-capability will be. Samsung also said today that four of the top six U.S. carriers sell phones from its Galaxy S product line.