updated 06:10 pm EST, Thu January 20, 2011
T-Mobile only bidder left for Clearwire spectrum
T-Mobile is the only major contender left to buy Clearwire spectrum, multiple tips said Thursday. Others have backed out on any major deals and would leave T-Mobile the only one buying large pieces of the spectrum, worth up to $2 billion. The Reuters informants said that a deal hadn't been reached partly as T-Mobile was still looking at a possible deal for Harbinger's national 4G network, LightSquared.
An internal deadline has purportedly been set by T-Mobile to land a deal before the end of the first quarter, which wraps up at the end of March. Clearwire was considered the more likely of the two.
None of the companies would comment on the deal. Clearwire is known to be in severe financial trouble and eager to offload unused spectrum to raise cash for its survival and WiMAX rollout with Sprint. It recently sold off debt notes and could get twice as much money from selling wireless spectrum, but it also saw its chairman jump ship and has triggered worry that any collapse could bring down Sprint as well.
The apparent leaks came as T-Mobile's US CEO Philipp Humm launched a new initiative at the carrier's New York City media event on Thursday morning. Humm didn't acknowledge the Clearwire rumors but set out a public goal to recover lost market share to AT&T and Verizon. The new program, "Reinvent," would increase the American network's revenue by $3 billion by 2014 even as it saved as much as $1 billion in costs a year earlier.
He also acknowledged that churn, or customer turnover as old customers were replaced with new ones, was a major issue. He hoped to pull down the churn rate to two percent this year and under 1.8 percent in 2012. While the HSPA+ 3G network was a major factor, the carrier would go "big with Android" and encourage a wider use of features like its Wi-Fi phone calling app. Cutting back on delinquent customers would play its own role by keeping only subscribers that can afford to and are willing to pay the monthly rates.
The ultimate goal would be to overtake Sprint for the third spot in the US, Humm said.
How T-Mobile's Android strategy would change wasn't made clear, but it would likely involve even more and more advanced models. T-Mobile was the original Android carrier and launched the G1 in October 2008, but it has since become distant to Verizon as the most important owing to fewer and less powerful flagship devices. Some of this was addressed today by the shipment of the Motorola Cliq 2 and a preview of the Galaxy S 4G.
The provider has been one of the more badly hurt by the presence of iPhone in the US. It has rarely had a "halo" phone to attract new customers and hasn't had the marketing clout or sheer coverage of Verizon to make up for the deficit. Despite Humm's statements, it may not depend solely on Android and has shown interest in the iPhone as a way to at least keep customers from leaving.