Steve Stroh has taken a close look at Craig McCaw's recent purchases in the broadband wireless space: McCaw bought Clearwire, a Texas company that controlled some ITFS spectrum--ideal spectrum for broadband wireless. But Stroh thinks that one of the most important aspects of what McCaw is doing includes the purchase of gear maker NextNet.
NextNet was around during the last big interest in MMDS in the mid-1990s and McCaw has been an investor in the company. NextNet is part of the WiMax Forum and says it intends to build WiMax equipment, but Stroh thinks that McCaw is likely to use NextNet's proprietary gear to get a jump on the market.
The first certified WiMax gear from almost every vendor will operate in licensed bands in international markets. One analyst recently told me that WiMax equipment designed to operate in the U.S. probably won't appear until late 2005 or possibly 2006. In the meantime, McCaw can use NextNet's gear and beat potential competitors to the market.
Also, with McCaw in control of NextNet, he can make sure that the vendor is making the gear he wants. As Stroh notes: "McCaw learned from Nextel that if your service depends on the whims of your supplier, they can dictate things that can materially affect the service."
McCaw could migrate to WiMax in the future in order to take advantage of potentially lower cost equipment. But Stroh notes that in many cases the proprietary gear may be better than the WiMax equipment. "WiMax is a compromise," he notes. Even if the customer equipment from Clearwire is more expensive than that of WiMax gear, McCaw will have a head start, Stroh says.
The new Clearwire Web site in part leads Stroh to think that McCaw is close to officially introducing the new business. McCaw may be trying to keep quite about his plans in an effort to try to buy additional ITFS or other spectrum at good prices, Stroh says.
Stroh says he dug up some other juicy information that's available to subscribers of his newsletter, Focus on Broadband Wireless Internet Access.
[Editor's note: When we point to a paid editorial resource, we like to be clear whether or not we have a financial relationship with that resource. We do not. We merely know that Stroh knows his stuff.]