Clearwire Ramps Up LTE Build in 4Q

Even with revenues dropping 14 percent in the last quarter and losses mounting, Clearwire exceeded its goal for LTE Advanced-ready network build, according Erik Prusch, president and CEO.

“We began to ramp up our build activity in the fourth quarter 2012 and exceeded our target of 800 fully commissioned sites with more than 1,000 LTE sites awaiting connection to Sprint’s core network at year-end,” he said during the 4Q earnings conference call.

The carrier remains on track to meet its goal of 2,000 LTE sites on air by the end of June 2013, increasing to 5,000 LTE sites on air by the end of 2013. To that end, it has 2,700 notices to proceed in hand, according to Prusch.

Clearwire had capital expenditures of $102 million in the fourth quarter, compared with $34 million for the previous quarter and $23 million for the fourth quarter 2011.

Capex in 4Q consisted primarily of LTE deployment in addition of WiMAX maintenance, according to Hope Cochran, chief financial officer. The total cost of the LTE build out is expected to be $600 million.

“Our LTE build hit its stride in the fourth quarter and we expect LTE equipment purchases for the initial phase of the build to ramp even faster in the coming quarters, as we build 5,000 sites by the end of 2013,” she said.

Clearwire’s revenue shortfall stirred rumors in the press about whether the carrier can survive the year without accepting financing from Sprint, which would essentially end Dish Network’s merger attempt.