Clearwire CEO Open To Switching 4G Technologies

Clearwire seems to be keeping its options open. It's been just days since news broke about a possible global WiMAX roaming agreement between Clearwire and a pair of international carriers, and now the company's CEO is stating that he would be open to the possibility of switching fourth-generation, or 4G, wireless technologies down the road if that helped the company.

Currently, Clearwire's 4G network operates on WiMAX technology. Given that most of the world seems to be headed to a different 4G standard called LTE, the fact that Clearwire is keeping its options open could be a good thing.

Clearwire and majority backer Sprint Nextel have already staked their claim to offering the first 4G wireless network in the U.S., which could give them a leg up in competition. In the U.S., Verizon is the only other carrier who might offer 4G services before the end of this year, though the majority of the company's 4G rollouts aren't likely to happen until next year. AT&T won’t begin testing a 4G service until 2011. T-Mobile is also taking its time moving to 4G. Like AT&T, the company plans to upgrade its existing network first.

Clearwire Chief Executive Bill Morrow recently told Dow Jones Newswires that if LTE becomes the dominant 4G technology, his company can easily switch technologies given its newly built infrastructure. "We're the only carrier that can do this," he said. "We'll do what's right for the business. Whether it's LTE, WiMAX, future technology X, it doesn't matter to me."

Recently, there's been talk of a potential bid by Deutsche Telekom AG (DT) for Sprint. If a deal is reached, it would call into question Sprint's commitment to WiMAX since DT has already committed to using LTE as its 4G technology.

Although Morrow wouldn't comment on the speculation, he did explain that changes in strategy would require a simple software update, since many of the company's routers are compatible with both technologies. For now, Clearwire plans to stick with WiMAX. As Morrow put it, "WiMAX is here today, and LTE is not."

Clearwire is currently in the middle of building out its WiMAX network and plans to cover 80 markets by the end of the year. The company still needs additional funding to complete the build out and run the network until it can turn a profit. In addition to Sprint, big name companies such as Google and Intel also own stakes in the company.