WiMax provider Imagine acquires Clearwire in Ireland

26 Jul 2010

Sean Bolger’s fast-growing Imagine has acquired Clearwire’s Irish operations for an undisclosed sum. Imagine is engaged in a €100m national rollout of WiMax supported by Intel and Motorola.

Following the Clearwire transaction, Imagine will have close to 400 high sites nationwide to facilitate the rapid roll out of its WiMax network.

“This is a very significant and strategic deal for us as Clearwire is one of the world’s leading 4G operators,” Brian O’Donohoe, managing director of Imagine Communications Group explained.

“Key network and operational assets, as well as a talented technical team, will serve as a solid launch pad for expanding service and making 4G mobile broadband a reality across Ireland,” O’Donohoe added.

Imagine gained 50mHz of spectrum when purchasing Irish Broadband in 2008, added more spectrum in a ComReg process in 2009, and with Clearwire Ireland Limited’s spectrum now has more than 120mHz of crucial 3.4/3.6mHz spectrum.

This will enable Imagine to take full advantage of the WiMax technology, which is expected to deliver speeds of 100Mbps to consumers and businesses in the near future.

As part of the transaction, Clearwire will become a minority shareholder and will nominate a representative to Imagine’s board of directors. Other specific financial terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

In 2008, Clearwire and Sprint Nextel’s wireless broadband unit announced a merger to create a 4G WiMax network. Sprint will own 51pc of the firm, while a consortium including Comcast, Time Warner, Intel, Google and Bright House will invest US$3.2bn.

Some 475 WiMax networks were deployed in 140 countries as of April 2009 and more than 50 million users expected in 2014.

Later this year, Intel will reveal the first manufacturers to deploy WiMax chipsets in the latest array of notebook computers.

Imagine Communications Group is a pan-European communications provider with substantial business operations in Europe and has an overall network reach extending to Ireland, the UK, the Netherlands, Austria, Norway and the US.

In Ireland, Imagine provides fixed voice, broadband, IP and ISP services. Imagine is the No 2 business telecoms company in Ireland and provides services to 17,000 businesses. Imagine also provides residential customers across the country with the Imagine, Gaelic Telecom, Access and Cinergi brands and serves 10pc of the Irish population with broadband.

Imagine is led by its founder, Sean Bolger, an Irish telecoms entrepreneur who has founded and operated businesses in fixed, mobile and data telecommunications services for nearly 20 years. Other Irish shareholders include leading global private equity investor DFJ Esprit and leading utility and renewable energy player NTR.

Imagine expects that the WiMax network will cover 90pc of Ireland within two years, with prices undercutting incumbent Eircom by 50pc.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years