Does Clearwire Still Have Plenty of Value?

Clearwire's (Nasdaq: CLWR  ) survival may have become even more uncertain when its onetime sugar daddy, Sprint Nextel (NYSE: S  ) , essentially told it "Don't let the door hit you in the back." Like a really ugly divorce, it won't be easy to disentangle the community property of this marriage. Sprint, after all, does own 54% of the economic value of Clearwire -- though it recently sold off enough voting shares in hopes of insulating itself from liability for Clearwire's debt obligations.

But some of that community property is quite precious and the lifeblood of a telecom company: spectrum. Without license to use part of the radio-frequency spectrum assigned for wireless communications, all the towers, transceivers, switching gear, and cabling in the world would be for naught.

Frequency frenzy
This is why MetroPCS Communications (Nasdaq: PCS  ) has been edging in closer to the cast-aside Clearwire. Metro Chief Financial Officer J. Braxton Carter said last week that his company is "uniquely positioned" to get an agreement with Clearwire to use its wireless spectrum to fill in the holes in its own coverage.

Braxton said Clearwire's 2.5 GHz spectrum holdings would be especially useful to shore up its 4G weaknesses in major metropolitan areas.

This is heartening news for Clearwire shareholders who were taken aback by Sprint's cold shoulder. But Metro could also look elsewhere for its spectrum needs. Another likely candidate would be the wireless licenses held by SpectrumCo, the partnership formed by cable companies Cox, Comcast (Nasdaq: CMCSA  ) , and Time Warner Cable (NYSE: TWC  ) . SpectrumCo paid $2.4 billion at an FCC auction for Advanced Wireless Service, or AWS, spectrum licenses five years ago but has yet to use those frequencies.

Some promising news
Wherever MetroPCS decides to go for its frequency fix, the market sent Clearwire shares rocketing 13.5% upward last Thursday as the company said its third-quarter revenues would beat analysts' estimates of $322.6 million. Clearwire expects $332 million, 126% higher than the same quarter a year ago. This improvement came about on a net wholesale subscriber gain of 1.9 million over last year.

That's good news for a company that hasn't had much lately. Can Clearwire survive intact without having to ditch some of its valuable spectrum? Or can it survive at all? Put the company on My Watchlist to keep up with its ups and downs. Or put all the companies talked about here in My Watchlist.

Fool contributor Dan Radovsky has no financial interest in the companies mentioned here. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.


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  • Report this Comment On October 17, 2011, at 7:38 PM, jhf678 wrote:

    That would be a chance for PCS to expand its market.

  • Report this Comment On October 18, 2011, at 2:02 PM, spokanimal wrote:

    Clearwire is getting close to becomming EBITDA positive and it's $150 million Q3 cash burn was much less than expected.

    The company is getting close to a point where a potential partner won't have to pony up to financially support Clearwire's expenses. Last summer, it was expected that clearwire could need as much as $300 million by next sprint to remain a going concern...

    ... and now that amount is looking much, much smaller.

    Much depends on Clearwire's ability to continue accumulating subscribers in Q4 in the face of competition from Sprint's 3G I-Phone. Net subcriber adds for CLWR in Q4 of more than 1 million would be a positive given initial I-phone sales.

    S

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