The iPhone 5 launch today is sure to be the most important event for tech investors this year. The Motley Fool is hosting a live chat where our top tech analysts will answer your questions and break down what the announcement means for Apple and investors everywhere. Swing by Fool.com at 12:45 p.m. EDT today for all of your coverage of Apple's next big announcement.
Clearwire (Nasdaq: CLWR ) provides fourth-generation wireless broadband services for residential and mobile users throughout the United States.
Today, let's look at three things investors should be watching regarding Clearwire, as they will provide us better insight into the company.
1. Clearwire's partnership with Sprint
Clearwire is, as I've alluded before, the redheaded stepchild that Sprint Nextel (NYSE: S ) never wanted but can't seem to get rid of. As Sprint's largest customer, Clearwire has received in excess of $2 billion to invest in its WiMAX and 4G LTE technology by Sprint over the past couple of years in order to keep Clearwire afloat and to aid in the build-out of its broadband networks.
However, Sprint has had a much different outlook on where it wants to take its 4G network. Sprint plans to completely stop making devices capable of running on Clearwire's technology after 2013. Originally Sprint had planned on going with LightSquared's 4G network, but the FCC put its foot down multiple times on LightSquared technology after noting its interference with GPS receivers. It's apparent that Sprint isn't satisfied with Clearwire's technology or progress, so investors need to stay abreast on this shaky partnership and keep up on what other possible partners Clearwire may have.
2. Spectrum wars
Let's face it, the real value of Clearwire is buried deep within its spectrum assets. Although Clearwire's assets lie predominantly in the 2.5 Ghz to 2.7 Ghz range, which isn't as desirable as other spectrum ranges, it still could garner a significant chunk of change from selling some or all of its assets.
It's also worth noting that spectrum demand and supply could have a huge bearing on what Clearwire could gain from selling part of its spectrum. At the moment, spectrum is in demand, but there are also companies willing to supply it if needed. DISH Networks (Nasdaq: DISH ) is one such company that has excess spectrum that it could easily sell or lease at the moment. In addition, struggles at both MetroPCS Communications (NYSE: PCS ) and Leap Wireless (Nasdaq: LEAP ) , which have both been losing money and burning through subscribers, could be the impetus that leads a larger telecom like Sprint or AT&T to simply buy the spectrum it needs. That was the purpose behind AT&T's proposed, but failed, purchase of T-Mobile in 2011 -- to gain access to more spectrum.
As long as spectrum remains available, immediate sales of spectrum may not yield the best results for Clearwire.
3. The dreaded D-word
We can't talk about Clearwire without first talking about the mountain-high pile of debt that it's currently contending with. You might feel pretty safe as a Clearwire shareholder in knowing that the company has $1.2 billion in cash, but considering that it's averaged a free cash outflow of nearly $1.9 billion over the past five years, that isn't going to last the company very long at all.
On top of burning cash on a daily basis, Clearwire must also deal with nearly $4.3 billion in debt. In addition to dealing with interest expenses which add a further drain on its cash, Clearwire is on the hook to repay... get this... $2,947,724,000 in debt in 2015. I'll give you a moment to pick yourself up off the floor.
Clearwire has no choice but to act now and work toward restructuring its debt or selling some of its assets, because that may not be a viable option one year from now. This situation bears watching.
Now that you know what to watch for, it should be easier to analyze Clearwire's successes and failures in the future and hopefully give you a competitive investing edge.
If you're still craving even more info on Clearwire, I would recommend adding the stock to your free and personalized watchlist so you can keep up on all of the latest news with the company.
Clearwire's attempt at building a game-changing 4G LTE network has been less than inspiring. However, our team of analysts at Stock Advisor has identified three companies that appear set to lead the new technological revolution with the introduction of a new disruptive technology. Find out the identity of these stocks, for free, by clicking here to get this latest special report.