DirecTV appears to be signaling an interest in partnering in some fashion with Clearwire, reports Fierce Wireless. DirecTV, in a recent filing, urged the FCC to require that the cable companies with a minority interest in Clearwire divest their holdings.
The main competitor for DirecTV is Dish Networks, which also has 40 Mhz of 2.1 GHz spectrum (but no infrastructure). T-Mobile has the infrastructure (for AWS), and might utilize the Dish frequencies, while AT&T lacks the AWS/2.1 GHz infrastructure (but arguably needs additional spectrum more than T-Mobile).
T-Mobile, meanwhile, told the FCC they need Verizon’s AWS spectrum to bring LTE to markets they couldn’t otherwise serve.
Although it’s pure speculation, AT&T and DirecTV could team up on Clearwire spectrum, which might also allow AT&T to offload iPhone 5 data as early as next year. Teaming with Dish might mean at least a 3 year delay for AT&T, until infrastructure gets built and devices support it.
Both DirecTV and Dish have broadband internet satellites, but both require a south-facing view of the sky. It’s better suited for rural users. Any “wireless cable” play, using terrestrial towers, seems very unlikely but may not be out of the question — if you have 40 MHz to play with.
Clearwire intends to launch 5,000 TDD-LTE cell sites by June 2013, but much of its future right now is bound up with that of Sprint, where it gets more than 80% of its subscribers. If Sprint can successfully offload their PCS-based FD-LTE network onto Clear’s TD-LTE network (at 2.6 GHz), then Clear should be okay. But refarming their 850 MHz Nextel spectrum would give Sprint better range.
Clearwire, therefore, might benefit from another large wholesale partner like DirecTV, in addition to their flotilla of mobile virtual operators. Dish and T-Mobile would make a formidable competitor, especially if they teamed with Google or Amazon. Driving data connection costs down is in the interest of Apple, Amazon, Google and Microsoft.
Theoretically, it might work for both operators and consumers. AT&T/Verizon/Sprint get LTE on 700/800 MHz. T-Mobile and Dish get AWS/Dish spectrum for large LTE growth, and Clearwire’s 2.6 GHz becomes the urban offload band.