What Are They Up To This Time?Wednesday, April 11, 2007
If you look at the timeline and company history on the NextWave Website you will see that it starts in April of 2005 with the formation of the new NextWave Wireless LLC. But in truth, the same leadership has been running a company called NextWave since the 1990s when they first stepped up at the PCS auctions and purchased a lot of PCS spectrum.
The old NextWave was going to build out a nationwide wireless broadband network and wholesale minutes and bits of data. MCI stood up and said it would play, and then everything fell apart because of foreign investment questions. The FCC took back some of the spectrum, NextWave sued, there were other suits, and bankruptcy became part of all of this. NextWave emerged with a lot of spectrum in the PCS band and then sold it off.
For a while, NextWave was quiet. Not much was heard about the company but it is back now, as a very different company with what looks like a very different mission. Today, its tagline is, “We are Wireless 2.0,” which, I guess, is a play on Web 2.0, which is supposed to be the next big thing.
NextWave has been on a buying spree of late and now owns NextWave Broadband, GO Networks, PacketVideo Corporation and, its latest purchase, IP Wireless, a TDD wireless provider that has networks up and running in a number of countries and is pushing its IP Wireless TV as a play against both MediaFLO and DVB-H.
The IP Wireless technology is TD-CDMA built to 3GPP standards, but it is a TDD technology. I have to wonder if NextWave believes it can pour TDD into FDD spectrum (see my 4/3/07 Commentary). It does claim data rates of up to 16 Mbps.
But NextWave is now involved in all phases of wireless: semiconductors, network solutions, network products, devices, software and spectrum solutions. How it intends to put all of these pieces together is anybody’s guess at this point. It raised an additional $355 million in March, and in April, revenues were $24.5 million (all from PacktetVideo) with a loss per share of $1.28. On the other side of the ledger, it now claims to have spectrum that covers 248.9 million POPs.
I wonder what NextWave is up to this time around? It probably could have collected a few $billion from Intel simply by mentioning the WiMAX word, but instead bought IP Wireless. (I have always been impressed with IP Wireless’ technology—just never could figure out where it fit except in Europe and places where UMTS TD spectrum is available.)
NextWave is a company that keeps reappearing. It has certainly had a turbulent ten years or so, but it remains to be seen if it can put together the pieces and parts it has purchased and the spectrum it holds to make a solid business out of it. NextWave is worth keeping an eye on in these times of surprises and end-around plays.