Clearwire's new CEO faces big challenges in the LTE race

Clearwire has a new chief, announcing today it has promoted current COO Eric Prusch to the twin posts of president and CEO. The announcement comes at a critical time in the company's plan to create a state-of-the-art 4G wireless network.

Background: LTE in 2011: Curb your enthusiasm

Clearwire is seeking hundreds of millions of dollars in new investment to finance shifting its future radio infrastructure from WiMax to LTE, which is the standard adopted by most of its U.S. rivals. As Clearwire's CFO for 18 months, Prusch played a key role in financing the original WiMax expansion. He's held mainly financial jobs in a handful of companies over the past decade including Borland Software, Intuit, Identix and Gateway Computer.

Clearwire, based in Kirkland, Wash., launched its WiMax network in 2008, with Sprint, one of its main investors, as its main customer. Clearwire offers its own 4G network services, under the Clear brand, and wholesales the network infrastructure to other companies, among them Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Locus Telecommunications, Cbeyond, Mitel and Best Buy. Besides Sprint, other top investors include Intel Capital, Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Google and Bright House Networks.

Prusch has been COO since last March, when Clearwire began a sweeping executive-level change. The company announced then-CEO Bill Morrow was resigning for "personal reasons," along with Mike Sievert, chief commercial officer, and Kevin Hart, the CIO. Prusch was named the operations chief, while board chairman John Stanton took over as interim CEO during the search for a permanent one. Hope Cochran, senior vice president and treasurer, replaced Prusch as CFO.

As CEO, Prusch faces the challenging task of building on Clearwire's WiMax success, phasing in LTE on that same infrastructure, and expanding the physical network and through partners its subscriber base in the teeth of mounting LTE competition. [For a detailed analysis see "Clearwire's LTE plan faces high hurdles".]

Clearwire recently reached 7.65 million total subscribers on its own Clear network brand and those of its partners, with a net gain of 1.5 million in the most recent quarter. It has enough cash to continue for at least 12 more months, and its cultivating partners and potential new investors. Clearwire has $9.1 billion in assets, with its spectrum licenses accounting for $4.3 billion of that, and has $4 billion in debts.

John Cox covers wireless networking and mobile computing for Network World.


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This story, "Clearwire's new CEO faces big challenges in the LTE race" was originally published by Network World.

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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