Clearwire files for $400 million IPO

Craig McCaw's wireless broadband company is trying to raise cash to expand its network and buy more spectrum.

Wireless broadband service provider Clearwire plans to raise $400 million in an initial public offering it filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission on Thursday.

Clearwire uses spectrum in the 2.5GHz band in the U.S. and 3.5GHz band in Europe to provide fixed wireless broadband service to 200 communities. It uses a pre-standard version of WiMax, a packet-based technology that transmits data faster than current cellular technology and over longer distances than Wi-Fi gear.

Clearwire claims to offer download speeds up to 1.5Mbps and upload speeds up to 256Kbps. The service ranges in price from about $30 to $37 a month.

The company has been working with Intel, a Clearwire investor, to develop networks using newly standardized WiMax technologies. It also recently announced a marketing deal with AOL to sell a co-branded service in select markets.

The company plans to use the cash raised in the IPO to expand its network and acquire more radio-frequency spectrum, according to documents filed with the SEC. The Federal Communications Commission is scheduled to begin auctioning slivers of 90MHz radio spectrum in the 1.7GHz to 2.1GHz bands starting June 29.

Clearwire is likely to bid for some of the 1,122 available licenses. But it also will likely face competition from existing wireless providers such as Verizon Wireless, as well as from new competitors like cable operators and Internet companies.

Clearwire was founded by cell-phone pioneer Craig McCaw. It launched its first services back in August 2004, and now serves customers in more than 200 cities and towns throughout the world.

McCaw, chairman and co-chief executive of Clearwire, built McCaw Cellular Communications into the first nationwide mobile carrier in the U.S. In 1997, he sold the business to AT&T for $11.4 billion. AT&T Wireless was subsequently spun off by the old the AT&T. It was later acquired by Cingular Communications, which was jointly owned by the new AT&T and BellSouth.

The company listed several warnings in the risk-factor portion of its SEC filing. For one, McCaw controls the company by owning 47 percent of the outstanding shares and 87 percent of the voting rights through his holding company. What's more, Clearwire has yet to turn a profit. The company reported a net loss of $140 million on revenues of $33.45 million in 2005.

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