Opportunities, Solutions, Strategies and Alliances borne from the Wireless Innovation and Infrastructure Initiative (WIII) Program
Probably the most intriguing of opportunities that exists with the current ecosystem of wireless broadband in the United States is that of the relationship between Clearwire and Sprint. Clearwire stated recently that they are moving away from retailing their service and will be concentrating on wholesaling use of the Educational Broadband Service (2.5GHz EBS) spectrum they have leased from educational entities throughout the country… that means their biggest customers (and Clearwire investors to this point) will be Sprint, Comcast and Time Warner.
There is a total of 194MHz of EBS spectrum available through the EBS band nationwide. And Clearwire has the lease rights to most of it (especially in larger, metro markets). With Sprint eyeballing additional funding for Clearwire’s wholesale model and build out of more infrastructure to promote and sell Sprint’s 4G EVO I can’t imagine why Sprint would not want to get into the Educational Infrastructure Business.
Here’s why. It’s a “Race to the Top”!
As the #3 carrier in the US Sprint has endeavored just to stay alive and maintain that position. Going up against Verizon and AT&T, especially with newer 4G LTE service now being introduced through these behemoths, will be a challenge. If Sprint maintains their “just another carrier” mentality, they will be just that… another service provider.
The Education Business is booming… and what does Sprint have access to? The Educational Broadband Service spectrum. So why not use that asset, and fully exploit the true and intended use of this asset to grow the Company?
The educational market, demographic and potential subscriber base is huge. Almost 1/3 of the Country, if not more. It represents students, student households (parents), school districts, colleges, universities, administrators, associations, unions, etc. And this demographic, or potential customer base, represents the true means and catalyst towards economic recovery, investment and sustainability in the USA.
And Sprint, as an Educational Service Provider, can roll right in on the heels of Obama’s WIII, the ARRA Race to the Top program and a revamped Universal Services Fund. All they need to do is look at the Northern Michigan University EBS network model and the amount of positive outcome a replicated model of that could benefit the Country but more importantly, in Sprint’s eyes, improve their brand.
EVO = Education, Victory and Opportunity. That’s my best stab at the re-creation of the Sprint EVO 4G brand.
Idea # 1 – So here is how Sprint does it.
Step # 1 – Dan Hesse (CEO of Sprint) needs to get on the phone with Rupert Murdoch. Murdoch’s News Corporation ($56 billion dollar company) just launched a new Educational Division (ED). This new division is being run by Joel Klein, who was hired away as Chancellor of the NYC School System.
The first investment of NewsCorp’s new ED was the purchase of 90% equity in Brooklyn based Wireless Generation (deal worth $360 million). Wireless Generation, Inc. “provides computer-based formative assessments, Web-based reporting, data analysis, and instructional planning tools to PreK-12 educators. The company offers mCLASS software, which enables teachers to use handheld devices for formative assessments in the elementary grades; and Burst:Reading, a K-3 reading intervention that is used to analyze assessment data and produce sequences of lessons for students.”
What does Wireless Generation (WG) need? A dedicated wireless infrastructure in which they can share in revenues generated. This moves their revenue model from supplying devices and app’s to monthly subscriptions for their service… hence the Clearwire/Sprint network. This also means that WG can just give these app’s away (conceivably) as the revenue model has shifted.
How else can NewsCorp and Sprint work together?
Well how about NewsCorp sub-leasing Sprint (Clearwire) network access to newspaper publishers? There is absolutely no doubt that the newspapers we read every day will transition to digital delivery. No one realizes how important these newspapers are to our communities… until they close their doors because they just can’t afford to print them any more. This is a two-fold benefit… the newspaper publishers keep their doors open (and jobs are saved, transitioned) and the environment benefits (save the trees). Another benefit is that the newspapers can really open up different forms of content and advertising models (e.g. citizen journalism, educational tools, streaming video… you name it).
Oh… and these newspapers have subscribers. Clearwire/Sprint would also have access to this subscriber base.
I wrote a piece called “4G to Become the New e-Printing Press – Saving the Newspaper Publishing Industry” back in June of 2009. The title speaks as to the content of the piece. Schurz Communications publishes eleven daily and eight weekly newspapers in medium and small markets with a combined circulation of nearly 225,000. Digital Bridge (partner with Clearwire) provides broadband wireless to small and medium-sized communities of up to 150,000 people nationwide through using the 4G technology standard.
As a result of this article came the announcement “DigitalBridge Communications Announces Strategic Investment by Schurz Communications, Advancing 4G Media Opportunities”. I had also received an email, prior to the announcement, from Schurz VP of Digital Media stating “… what you described in June was transformative. Might change the current vector of things. So, yes, we are becoming 4G service providers with DBC. We prefer 4G to WISP, as WISP harkens fixed, slow speed, wireless. This is much more Clearwire like. We plan to announce in 2 weeks. Thanks for your early thought on the idea. It was really affirmative early on in our discussions.“
I hope the same thing happens with Sprint and NewsCorp.
The funny thing is that Clearwire probably heard about this through their ties to Digital Bridge and did not see the opportunity here. Their wholesale model should include the publishing industry as one of their most opportunistic and immediate revenue sources.
Step #2 – Contact Sony Corp. Why? Sony has money and they just inked a deal with upstart IPWireless – a 4G equipment provider and developer. According to the press release “Sony and IPWireless engineers will work together to develop key new technologies to enhance and expand the potential of LTE and other 3GPP (4G) technologies with the goal of contributing these new specifications to the 3GPP standards and beyond. These R&D initiatives will blend Sony’s capabilities for delivering rich user experiences and groundbreaking consumer innovation with IPWireless’ unparalleled expertise in developing 3GPP mobile broadband and broadcast technologies.”
This means migrating the EBS spectrum to 3GPP Release 8 LTE standards, the same as Verizon and AT&T (see Idea #2 below)
One would think that Sony Corp would have performed extensive due diligence before inking a deal with IPWireless considering the abundance of equipment providers that are out there.
There’s a lot coming out of the IPWireless camp these days that Clearwire or Sprint should take notice of. 4G development partnerships with Sony, Samsung, Huawei, Northrop Grumman, Altair Semiconductors, IMB Accessories for iPhone™ and iPad™, 700MHz Public Safety and even self-contained modular network systems that can operate using the 2.5GHz EBS spectrum that Clearwire has the rights to. Every EBS license holder that may be in jeopardy of losing their EBS license (May 1, 2011 EBS “Substantial Service” drop dead date) should have one of these modular EBS “service-in-a-box” systems dropped off on their doorsteps.
How about a pilot project in Brooklyn, NY? Everybody’s there. Clearwire infrastructure, IPWireless & Northrop Grumman have launched a NYC public safety network using just 10MHz of the 2.5GHz EBS, Wireless Generation is there… get NewsCorp (they own the Wall Street Journal & New York Post) and Sony to pay for it… there ya go.
What does all this lead to? Two partners with deep pockets looking to 4G. A new operating and revenue (share) model that promotes a brand working towards the ideals of “conscious capitalism”. And Sprint as a major competitor to Verizon & AT&T, keeping costs down.
Idea #2 – (@ Clearwire) Migrate the 2.5GHz to LTE already! You’ve been talking about it…. testing it. Perhaps the Rural Telecommunications Group says it best in their response to the introduction of the WIII program. “… only by combining these actions with additional steps that would ensure access to data roaming and network interoperability in the 700 MHz band [and the 2.5GHz EBS], will it be possible for all Americans to have 3G and eventually 4G access from coast to coast, regardless of their wireless carrier, and regardless of where they live. Quite simply, the U.S. cannot win the future unless all of its citizens, including rural Americans, have the ability to connect wirelessly to the Internet where they live, work, [go to school] and travel”.
Idea #3 – Promote Regional Public/Private Partnerships
Clearwire and Sprint, as an infrastructure and service provider should take advantage of the fact that different regions (or communities) throughout this country will have different needs. Where better to start to define these needs than with the stakeholders within those regions. That means the school districts and teachers/administrators that have to meet the criteria of Race to the Top, the local governments who are already collaborating within regional sectors by sharing app’s and consolidating reporting mechanisms, local non-profits that are vital to our communities, public safety and Digital Access, Inclusion & Literacy programs for undeserved or low-income people and families. Many other models and beneficiaries can present through these partnerships but more importantly Clearwire and Sprint, you are catalyzing your brand(s) through the offering of differentiating business, operating and revenue models encompassing the shifts in 21st century paradigms and towards conscious business practices.
Idea #4 – Revenue Share – This is a tough one for incumbent service providers…
… but it will work. Revenue from regional wireless service subscriptions flowing back to the communities they serve would be an excellent incentive for users to subscribe to a Clearwire/Sprint network. What else does it promote? Conscious business and brand. What better way to grow a business than to promote social, collaborative or educational entrepreneurship within the regions you are serving? Just a thought…
Idea #5 – Get with the Department of Education!
They just issued $4.35 billion in education reform monies to select states. These states are responsible for laying the foundation for education reform. They need solid broadband wireless infrastructure to fullfill the criteria as set forth by the DOE. That includes:
Great Teachers and Leaders
- Improving teacher and principal effectiveness based on performance
- Ensuring equitable distribution of effective teachers and principals
- Providing high-quality pathways for aspiring teachers and principals
- Providing effective support to teachers and principals
- Improving the effectiveness of teacher and principal preparation programs
Clearwire/Sprint solution: Infrastructure and access to proprietary/open source app’s supporting communications and collaborative content
Standards and Assessments
- Developing and adopting common standards
- Supporting the transition to enhanced standards and high-quality assessments
- Developing and implementing common, high-quality assessments
Clearwire/Sprint solution: Infrastructure and app’s to support Wireless Generation mClass (standards & assesment) components.
Turning Around the Lowest-Achieving Schools
Clearwire/Sprint solution: Assess and identify under-performing students and schools through educational arm of the regional public/private partnership while incorporating appropriate mClass assesments and standards
Data Systems to Support Instruction
- Fully implementing a statewide longitudinal data system (definition)
- Using data to improve instruction
- Accessing and using State data
Clearwire/Sprint solution: Proprietary and secure infrastructure to provide real time posting and access to data
(Wireless Generation is one of many new educational service providers (ESP’s). Most supplemental ESP’s are approved on a state by state basis)
Mr. Hesse… if you can’t find your RIO (Radar Intercept Officer) within Sprint or elsewhere, give me a call, I’ll fly with ya!