Clearwire calls for funds for LTE buildout

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Clearwire says it needs Sprint’s funding to convert from WiMax as Dish threatens to withdraw its bid

Loss-making US WiMax company Clearwire has said it needs funds by the end of 2013 if it is to survive.

The company is subject to two rival bids, including one from majority shareholder Sprint, which is helping fund its conversion from WiMax to LTE — but rival bidder, satellite TV company Dish, says its higher bid will be withdrawn if Clearwire accepts any money from Sprint.

Clearwire is losing subscribers for its WiMax service at the rate of 8% a year, mainly because wholesale customer Sprint has stopped selling WiMax services as it converts to LTE.

Clearwire president and CEO Erik Prusch put a positive spin on the results: “Our full year 2012 results demonstrate our continued focus on reducing costs, managing revenues and liquidity, and providing exceptional service to our customers during a transition period as we build an LTE network equipped to provide wireless consumers the speeds and capacity they desire,” he said.

But the company admitted that it had only 9.6 million customers at the end of 2012 — in a service area that covers 135 million people — and that this was down on the total for the end of 2011.

The issue is complicated by the fact that Japanese operator SoftBank has an agreed bid to take control of Sprint. Sprint has bid $2.97 a share for the 49% of Clearwire it does not own. Dish has bid $3.30 a share. All bids will need regulatory agreement before they can be completed.

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