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Brier Dudley offers a critical look at technology and business issues affecting the Northwest.

April 26, 2012 at 1:24 PM

Clearwire details superfast LTE rollout, Seattle in round 1

Clearwire’s superfast LTE booster service will begin operating in early 2013 in 31 markets, including Seattle, the company said today.

The rollout news is a bright spot in the company’s quarterly earnings report today. Clearwire lost $181.8 million in the quarter that ended March 31, which is improved from the $226.9 million lost during the same period last year.

Sales were $322.6 million, up from $236.8 million the year before.

Clearwire’s release noted that its operations netted cash for the first time last quarter – $65.7 million – in part because of a new wholesale partnership with Sprint.

The company’s new strategy is to provide a sort of turbocharging service that wireless carriers can use to boost their 4G LTE networks when additional capacity is needed. So far Sprint and Leap/Cricket are the first carriers to sign up to use Clearwire’s LTE Advanced service.

Among the 31 markets where the service will debut are Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York and Chicago. For some reason, the company declined to name the other 26 markets.

Clearwire plans to create 8,000 LTE Advanced sites in “hot zones” in dense, urban areas across the country. The first phase will add 5,000 sites in 31 markets; they’ll come on line during the first half of 2013.

Most of the investment will happen in the second half of this year. Clearwire said it’s not going to cost as much as it had predicted earlier. This year’s capital spending will be $350 million to $400 million, about $100 million to $150 million less than it was expecting.

Covering the cost shouldn’t be a problem. Clearwire ended the quarter with about $1.4 billion in cash and investments.

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