Sprint-Clearwire: Will 3rd Pipe Dreams Come True?

Sprint, after breaking up with Clearwire last November and walking away from the proposed WiMAX joint venture, is rethinking its position, according to the Wall Street Journal.

There is some talk that the two companies could form a joint venture and bring in outside investors, including large technology companies like Google and Intel.

Good move, for this would allow Sprint’s new CEO Dan Hesse to focus on the core mobile phone business, which is getting worse by the quarter. For Clearwire, this would save it from being a small, marginal broadband player. Intel could finally realize some of the investments it has made in WiMAX and Google could, well, give Android the push it needs. A perfect storm of converging self-interests, and with a silver lining -– the third broadband pipe.

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8 Things to Know About the 700MHz Auction

The 700MHz auction kicks off today, and like kids waiting for Santa Claus, the technology and business publications are tense with anticipation. But FCC chairman Kevin Martin is keeping a lid on this auction, rather than post periodic updates as was done in the AWS auction in 2006.

While you wait to learn who gets the goods who gets a lump of coal, here’s a quick list of everything you need to know about the upcoming auction and why it matters. Check out all the links, because the bidding doesn’t conclude until March 24 and down payments aren’t due until April 11. You’ve got time.

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The Operators vs. the Media Brands

The communications and media/online industries are at loggerheads, and how this battle shapes up over the course of the next few months will define they we way will consume media, entertainment and information.

Drive-By WiMAX at CES

After talking earlier this week about the speed bumps that U.S. WiMAX deployment faces, it only seemed proper to take a ride in the WiMAX-equipped vehicles that Motorola and Intel revved up at CES.
I will geek out a bit after the jump, but the bottom line is that Wednesday’s brief broadband cruise provided public proof that mobile WiMAX works pretty much just like extended-range Wi-Fi, or maybe more like a cellular 3G network, does. But there are still too many loose ends — including incomplete equipment rollouts at the chip and device level, and uncertain provider plans — to guarantee widespread WiMAX availability in this country anytime soon.
On the optimist side, it is always fun to find new technologies that let you make Skype calls from a car while watching “Hillary crying” videos on YouTube. Sometimes broadband reporting is fun. Read More about Drive-By WiMAX at CES

Intel: WiMAX PC Card by June

Intel Executive VP Sean Maloney, at CES here in Las Vegas, said the company will have a “middle-of-[this]-year-release” for its WiMAX PC Card, a device that could help accelerate end users’ embrace of the nascent wireless technology.
Despite some recent bumps in the road for WiMAX, top executives from major WiMAX backers Intel, Sprint Nextel and Cisco all said at CES this week that they are bullish on the wireless technology’s future, albeit more so in countries other than the U.S. Intel CEO Paul Otellini said in his Monday afternoon keynote here that “for the next five to 10 years, WiMAX will have a significant advantage” as a platform for wireless broadband, and Cisco CEO John Chambers said Monday night that the networking giant “remains bullish” on WiMAX, especially in developing-country deployments.
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More Speed Bumps Ahead for WiMAX

One of the promotional gimmicks planned for next week’s CES show are rides around Vegas in a car with mobile WiMAX Internet access, courtesy of WiMAX backers Intel, Clearwire and Motorola. While the demonstration of real mobile WiMAX is a big step forward for the nascent wireless technology, you have to wonder if the market- and technology-based speed bumps in WiMAX’s way will keep it from reaching highway velocity anytime soon.
Two of the biggest recent setbacks for WiMAX include the unraveling of the planned partnership between Sprint and Clearwire, and AT&T’s apparent dumping of WiMAX as a strategic “4G” technology in favor of LTE. Though Moto continues to churn out newer, better and cheaper WiMAX gear (like the single-user CPE they will be showing at CES), Clearwire’s struggle to find profitable traction and Sprint’s now-cloudy devotion to WiMAX raise the question if there will even be carriers interested in Moto’s gear, no matter the price.
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Should USF Be Used For Rural Broadband?

Policy-makers want to split the Universal Service Fund, which brings in around $7 billion or so every year and is used to subsidize the old-fashioned phone systems in rural areas, into three distinct parts: one to subsidize wireless services, another for the old-fashioned phone services, and a slice to subsidize the broadband buildout in rural areas.

The Joint Board recommended capping the total amount of money the three funds could distribute to companies at $4.5 billion a year, about as much as it expects to use for subsidies this year. The rest of the $7 billion would be spent on programs that ensure high-speed Internet connections for schools and libraries.

It is not such a bad idea, and other countries, India for instance, have put similar policies in place, but I am with FCC Commissioner Michael Copps on this one. We need more money set aside for broadband, or in fact scrap the USF as we know it and set up a more broadband-focused rural fund.

“That’s like fighting a bear with a fly swatter,” Copps said in a statement. “Bringing broadband to the far corners of the nation is the central infrastructure challenge our country confronts right now.”