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Analyst downplays Intel plans to bankroll WiMAX rollout

21 марта 2008

Rumours that Intel would be willing to stump up as much as $2bn in a JV with Sprint Nextel and Clearwire, to fund a nationwide rollout of WiMAX across the US, are well off the mark.

A more likely scenario is that Intel will limit its investment and join an array of partners in a consortium to fund a Clearwire/Sprint nationwide WiMAX rollout.

This is one of the conclusions by analyst house JP Morgan, after attending Intel's analyst event last week. "There is very little precedent for Intel making a US$1bn-US$2bn investment in a non-core business," said JP Morgan analyst, Jonathan Chaplin.

Chaplin said Intel's entire R&D budget for new initiatives during 2008 is between $1bn and $2bn, and "WiMAX is only one of several new initiatives".

JP Morgan believes Intel is still interested in making an investment in a combined Sprint/Clearwire entity, but it is more likely to join a consortium of other players like Google, handset manufacturers and wireline or cable operators, reducing its financial exposure.

Intel Capital executives say they generally invest in opportunities that can produce an IRR (Internal Rate of Return) of 20 per cent. If a JV spinoff comprising Sprint and Clearwire were to have any chance of achieving that, said JP Morgan, then they would have to combine their 2.5GHz assets to create a nationwide footprint. "A nationwide footprint is essential," Chaplin said, "because it would be difficult for the business model to be competitive without it."

Due to capital constraints, both Clearwire and Sprint have scaled back their initial WiMAX buildout plans. And although Intel Capital executives told JP Morgan they have plenty of time to strike a deal to finance a nationwide WiMAX network, saying that LTE won't be launched until 2010 at the earliest, Chaplin warns against any complacency. "We believe that WiMAX has a limited window of opportunity to establish itself as a relevant platform and none of the interested parties can afford much of a delay," he said.

Источник: telecoms.com

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