Thursday, August 05, 2010

Clearwire Banking on Wholesale

Clearwire confuses me. The more customers they add, the less money they make. In addition, I read that they are thinking about deploying an LTE test market. WTH?!

And now it looks like they think a wholesale strategy will help too. I guess they look at the success that Sprint has had in pre-paid and wholesale with cablecos and think, "We can do that better." While that's a good attitude, explain to me HOW you will do that better. So far the signs are that you will continue to lose billions -- in that way you are following Sprint -- before you see the light of day.

I grasp why companies look at The Channel and Wholesale partners: avenues to acquiring customers without adding sales staff.

Clearwire and Cbeyond Announce New Wholesale Agreement to Bring 4G Service to Small Businesses. You should read the press release because it is very interesting. Cbeyond already offers Blackberry service with their Dynamic T1 service. I guess Clearwire is cheaper than their current deal and allows them to sell data cards. While I see this as a way to be sticky and get a bigger piece of the customer's telecom spend, I don't see it as an avenue to profits. MVNO or wholesale or resell in VoIP and Cellular just aren't that profitable.

Clearwire also announced a wholesale agreement with Best Buy for 4G BB service. Best Buy who just got out of the wireline broadband market when it sold Speakeasy to MegaPath-Covad.

My favorite pieces of the PR:

"We are an early-stage company with a history of operating losses and we expect to continue to realize significant net losses for the foreseeable future."

"Our current and future plans are subject to a number of conditions and uncertainties, including among others, our ability to manage ongoing market development activities (including the development of over 10,000 sites), our performance in launched markets and our access to additional funding."

"We believe that we may require substantial additional financing to maintain our current business plans, and if we are unable to raise such financing on acceptable terms we will need to modify our plans accordingly." Even after raising $920M in 4Q09.

Clearwire though is looking for any way to sell more minutes and MB's. Agents, wholesale, retail, bundles. The key very well may be hardware and handsets. Devices have helped Skype. And handsets certainly drive cellular contracts. It's something any service provider CEO should think about. How can you re-package your service to sell it down a different channel?

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