January 8, 2010 / 3:55 PM / 10 years ago

INTERVIEW - Clearwire to launch its first European 4G network

MADRID (Reuters) - Wireless service provider Clearwire Corp will launch its first 4G wireless network in Europe in Malaga, Spain by the end of the month, in an attempt to breathe life into a technology many have dismissed.

The Malaga network, which will cover the metropolitan area of nearly 600,000 people, will be the first 4G network in Spain and Clearwire’s first WiMax launch outside its U.S. home market.

“Malaga’s a showcase for us to prove the technology works, prove the business model works and work to get other people investing alongside us to help build our properties in Europe,” Clearwire President Barry West told Reuters on Friday.

Using WiMax telecommunications technology, 4G has been competing as the next-generation mobile technology, but has largely lost the battle to Long Term Evolution (LTE), which has become mobile operators’ favoured solution, as it can exploit existing infrastructure.

WiMax has wider range and bandwidth than Wi-Fi, and is popular in underserved rural areas and densely populated cities. Its backers include Intel, the world’s biggest chipmaker, and telecoms companies including Motorola.

So far, there are about 500 WiMax deployments around the world, reaching some 10 million subscribers. LTE is seen as the natural successor to the popular GSM 2G and 3G standards, which have reached more than 4 billion connections worldwide.

West said the competition posed by LTE was not yet real, though he said Clearwire was open to any technology that provided the best service.

“LTE is still at the trial stages. We’ll see some trials this year with Verizon talking about taking their network commercial by the end of this year, but it’s still two or three years behind WiMax,” West said in a telephone interview.

“At the end of the day we’re operators not technologists, so if there’s a better solution we will obviously look to it. But right now, and for the foreseeable future, WiMax has that advantage,” West said.

Clearwire said in October it had picked Alvarion as its network infrastructure supplier for its launch of WiMax services in Malaga, and ZTE for the Spanish city of Seville later this year.

On Thursday, Clearwire said it was in talks with satellite, telecom and consumer electronics companies about using its WiMax network. West said Clearwire was not in any such talks with any operators in Spain.

“We have no open talks with anyone here in Spain. First step is to bring the network to Spain, show that it works, then you’ve got something to talk about,” he said.

West said the group was on track to make a core profit in each of its WiMax markets within two years.

“We look to reach EBITDA positive within a 1-2 year period on a per-market basis and all our investments are tracking that kind of time frame,” West said.

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