Clearwire's board of directors has elected John Stanton as chairman of the company, replacing Craig McCaw, a Clearwire founder who resigned last month.
Stanton has served on the WiMax carrier's board since 2008 and has a long track record in the mobile industry. He was chairman and CEO of Western Wireless from 1992 until 2005, after it was acquired by Alltel. He also served long stints as chairman and as CEO at VoiceStream Wireless, which later became T-Mobile USA. Today, Stanton is managing director of Trilogy International Partners, which operates mobile networks in Central and South America, as well as the investment companies Trilogy Partners and Trilogy Equity Partners.
McCaw founded the original Clearwire wireless broadband company and later became chairman of the current Clearwire, which was formed with investments by Sprint Nextel, Comcast, Google and other companies in 2008. Sprint owns a majority stake in Clearwire. McCaw resigned at the end of last year, and he was replaced on the board by Ben Wolff, who had served both as CEO and as a co-chairman of Clearwire in the past. Wolff, who has a Wall Street background, is expected to play a role in raising the capital the company needs to continue building out its national network.
Clearwire was the first service provider in the U.S. to build a significant network using a so-called 4G high-speed mobile technology, but it is coming up against competition from the country's biggest carriers. Verizon already offers 4G LTE (Long-Term Evolution) service reaching more than 100 million people, and AT&T plans to start deploying LTE in the middle of this year.
Clearwire has more than enough radio spectrum to deliver its service but has struggled to raise the money to expand its network. Last October, the company announced it would lay off 15 percent of its staff, delay the release of its own branded handsets and take other steps to conserve cash. At the end of 2010, Clearwire's service reached just over 110 million potential customers, just short of the company's goal of 120 million.
T-Mobile has been seen as a possible partner for Clearwire, with T-Mobile turning to Clearwire for spectrum while providing an additional source of subscribers to the WiMax network. Given his historical connection to T-Mobile, having Stanton in the chairman's seat might help in discussions with that carrier, according to Senza Fili Consulting analyst Monica Paolini.