2 Winners, 1 Loser From the Death of WiMAX

Is Clearwire (Nasdaq: CLWR  ) preparing to put the final nail in WiMAX's coffin? On Wednesday, the company announced plans to begin testing next-generation LTE technology that could function at speeds four to six times faster than competitors such as AT&T and Verizon (NYSE: VZ  ) .

RIP, WiMAX
Clearwire had been the last major WiMAX backer in the U.S. The once-promising technology now suffers from eroding support worldwide. While WiMAX will remain an integral part of Clearwire's network -- the company still plans to continue its WiMAX buildout through the end of the year -- Clearwire can't ignore LTE's momentum.

Pressure is most likely coming from Clearwire majority owner Sprint (NYSE: S  ) . CEO Dan Hesse recently hinted that Sprint might join the LTE bandwagon. It's no secret that Sprint's fairly desperate to turn its losing ways around; to do so, the wireless carrier might team up with fellow laggard T-Mobile to create an LTE network. Clearwire's press release mentioned that "a number of large wireless operators are expected to participate with Clearwire on these tests." To me, that looks like a not-so-subtle suggestion of T-Mobile's involvement in the endeavor.

With WiMAX losing its last major U.S. backer, the following three companies stand to gain or lose from WiMAX's continuing decline.

In the winners' circle ...
While Qualcomm (Nasdaq: QCOM  ) has patents in both LTE and WiMAX, it's no secret that the telecom giant is better-positioned for LTE to succeed in the next generation. Qualcomm has worked out LTE licensing with some of the largest handset manufacturers. LTE's continuing domination will keep Qualcomm's position as the patent kingpin assured for yet another generation of mobile networks.

Even with LTE hegemony in the U.S., almost every major carrier here uses different "spectral bands" to transmit data. For investors, that means there's tremendous opportunity in finding wireless companies with expertise in creating communication semiconductors that can operate equally well with varying frequencies. That's the exact niche TriQuint (Nasdaq: TQNT  ) targets.

And the biggest losers ...
DragonWave
(Nasdaq: DRWI  ) , which produces wireless backhaul equipment, has historically relied on Clearwire for the majority of its sales. While Clearwire is still committed to WiMAX buildouts through the end of the year, its LTE ambitions cast a shadow over Dragonwave's future. 

Fellow WiMAX specialist Ceragon Networks (Nasdaq: CRNT  ) could also be in trouble if more wireless companies defect from its technology of choice. However, Ceragon has a larger base of international customers that might be more dedicated to building out WiMAX networks.

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Sprint Nextel is a Motley Fool Inside Value pick. Ceragon Networks is a Motley Fool Hidden Gems recommendation. The Fool owns shares of Qualcomm. Try any of our Foolish newsletters today, free for 30 days. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.


Read/Post Comments (4) | Recommend This Article (12)

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  • Report this Comment On August 09, 2010, at 1:16 PM, dmz420 wrote:

    I own TQNT aleady and hope it moves upward .

  • Report this Comment On August 09, 2010, at 2:52 PM, techperson wrote:

    DragonWave produces backhaul equipment that uses IP protocol. It doesn't matter if CLWR uses WiMAX, LTE or two tin cans and a string to get the signal from the handset to the antenna. The backhaul between antennas is IP-based. ClearWire has repeatedly said one of the strengths of their network is their flexible, scalable backhaul system. They are even thinking of selling backhaul capacity to competitors. Please get your facts straight on the technology before dissing DragnWave!

  • Report this Comment On August 16, 2010, at 3:42 PM, jrich0591 wrote:

    Unfortunately, the article is incorrect in its reference to DragonWave. Simply and clearly, LTE (Long Term Evolution) refers to the standard for the edge or Radio Access Network (RAN). DragonWave supplies high-capacity packet (IP or Internet Protocol) microwave equipment for the backhaul portion of 3G and 4G mobile networks. DragonWave equipment is totally agnostic with respect to whether the 4G RAN technolgy is WiMAX or LTE and the Company's equipment is performing today in both WiMAX and LTE networks.

  • Report this Comment On August 16, 2010, at 8:06 PM, TMFRhino wrote:

    Hey all,

    The point here is that if you look at DragonWave's 40-F, nearly all of their major wins have been in WiMAX. If one of the major backers leaves WiMAX, its a blow to the technology's viability. While all-IP backhaul might be agnostic, there's still something to the fact WiMAX providers have flocked to Dragonwave. Whether or not Clearwire switching presents a direct threat, them causing a blow to WiMAX hurts a technology that DragonWave has been scoring most its wins in. That's the point I was going for, but I could be wrong.

    Best,

    Eric Bleeker

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