Clearwire's WiMAX Tests: Acquisition of IDT's Spectrum

Includes: IDT, S
by: Ari Zoldan

The Sprint (NYSE:S) - Clearwire (NYSE: CLWR) deal gave Clearwire undeniable credibility in WiMAX development, and the company is moving forward with the technology in a big way. Beta tests are underway in Portland, with "more than 70 percent of [the] WiMAX sites for Portland…in construction or on air." Completion is slated for the end of year, with commercial deployments in that city and 3 others in 2009.

But now they have more than just the hardware; as of July 2nd, Clearwire has leased 3 one-year licenses on the 39 GHz spectrum from IDT Spectrum, 2 of which are in the Oregon-Washington area. You may not have heard much about IDT Spectrum (NYSE: IDT) recently, but expect to hear the name much in the near future; they own spectrums nationwide, mostly in the 28 and 38/39 GHz range. As we come upon the dawning age of wireless, the value of spectrum cannot be understated: you need spectrum to do anything wireless–especially for WiMAX, which is contentionless. (That means it can only operate on licensed spectrum because it is built to assume the air is clear. If it isn't, the equipment just doesn't work! Naturally, some companies are trying to develop equipment to change that, but for now, that is the nature of most WiMAX equipment.) Those who bought spectrum when a majority of it was auctioned off by the FCC in the 80s are finally seeing their investment bear fruit, whether they intend to lease or sell –  remember the 700MHz auction earlier this year, which grossed a total of $19 billion?

So Clearwire has hardware, spectrum, and is well underway in deployment; what's to follow? If all goes well, 2009 will see Las Vegas, Grand Rapids, Atlanta, and Portland commercial launches as the first four commercial markets for Clearwire's WiMAX service, primed to follow at the heels of the Xohm launches in Baltimore, Chicago, and Washington D.C. in the fall of this year. The start of the WiMAX nationwide buildout is only months away.

Disclosure: Author holds long positions in all of the above-mentioned securities.