Clearwire Shuffles Execs, Names New CEO

Clearwire CEO William T. Morrow
New Clearwire CEO: William T. Morrow

WiMAX company Clearwire (NASDAQ: CLWR) yesterday named William T. Morrow as new CEO this week while it races to execute an ambitious plan for a nationwide mobile broadband network ahead of the competition and before its investor financing dries up.

In the executive shuffle, Clearwire Co-Founder and current CEO Benjamin G. Wolff will continue with the company as co-chairman, a position he will share with current Chairman Craig O. McCaw.

Dubbed a “turn-around guru” by industry insiders, Morrow served as president and CEO of Pacific Gas & Electric in San Francisco where he oversaw operations and directed an overhaul aimed at improving the company’s efficiency, supply chain and customer focus.

Morrow also served in a number of senior executive positions at international mobile communications group Vodafone Ltd. and Vodafone Group PLC, including CEO of Vodafone, Europe, CEO of Vodafone UK Ltd. and president of Vodafone KK in Japan. He was also President of Japan Telecom Co. and held senior executive positions with wireless telecommunications carrier AirTouch International.

Clearwire’s business model and unique assets have us well positioned to meet the rapidly growing demand for mobile broadband services,” said Morrow in a statement. “I’m excited at the prospect of working with everyone at Clearwire as we execute our plan to build a mobile WiMAX network covering up to 120 million people in more than 80 markets by 2010.”

Indeed, that’s the challenge, as some of the company’s key backers have already had to take write-downs on their investments because the firm’s stock has declined in value as the economic meltdown continues.

The company recently reported that it generated about $20.5 million in revenue and lost $118 million in the fourth quarter of 2008.

But some industry watchers remain upbeat about the potential of WiMAX adoption. ABI Research principal analyst Philip Solis says growth will be more modest for WiMAX base stations by themselves for 2009, but 2010 will see healthy expansion. “To ignore a growth market in a down economy would be a mistake,” said Solis.

And, Clearwire does have an impressive roster of allies. The $14.5 billion WiMAX project is a partnership between Sprint (NYSE: S) and Clearwire (NASDAQ:CLWR), with a total of $3.2 billion chipped in by Intel (NASDAQ: INTC), Google (NASDAQ: GOOG), Comcast (NASDAQ: CMCSA), Time Warner Cable (NYSE: TWC), and cable provider Bright House Networks.

The goal: offering customers high speed wireless connectivity that trumps Wi-Fi and other networking standards such as Long-Term Evolution (LTE), the 4G networking approach favored by Verizon Wireless.

WiMAX (and LTE for that matter) are often called Wi-Fi on steroids for the level of always-on connectivity, real-time multimedia experiences and robust applications it can support for a variety of devices.

The promise of WiMAX that everyone is betting on?

It offers a transmission speed more than five times faster than current wireless networks. It lets users send huge data files from a smartphone, switch from a mobile phone network to a LAN without redialing, share documents in real-time video conferences and essentially transport all the benefits of an office’s networked PC to conduct business on the road.

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