Chicago 4G pioneer Clearwire upgrading to LTE technology
Oct 30, 2012 (Menafn - Chicago Tribune - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --Three years ago, Clearwire Corp. became the first wireless provider to light up its 4G network in Chicago. Since then, all the major carriers have launched competing 4G services in a race to keep up with consumers' seemingly insatiable demand for mobile data.
Wireless infrastructure has always lagged behind what consumers want to do on their devices and what application developers can create, Clearwire Chief Executive Erik Prusch told the Tribune on Monday in an interview at the 4G World industry conference at McCormick Place.
"It's the equivalent of having a Ferrari without a strong engine," Prusch said. "The engine isn't the chipset. It's the capacity on the network."
Clearwire, which has struggled with many quarters of financial losses and cash burn, believes the upgrades it's making to its 4G network will give consumers a meaningful step up in capacity and speeds. The carrier, which initially launched 4G with a technology called WiMax, is now using a technology called LTE and expects to have 800 cell sites upgraded by year's end.
Last week, Clearwire said it is reducing its 2012 capital spending target to better align it with expected revenues. The company's future also depends on Sprint Nextel, its largest shareholder, which is selling a 70 percent stake to Japan's Softbank Corp. for 20 billion. Some analysts have speculated that Sprint may acquire the rest of Clearwire with the Softbank money, although Sprint has not confirmed that plan. Clearwire and Softbank are already partners in a global LTE-focused consortium.
Prusch said Chicago is important to Clearwire.
"This market is perfect," he said. "It has a high population density with people out on the street, in cars, going to offices, who want to take their broadband with them."
FiveStars looks to shine in Chicago: A new digital loyalty startup has launched in Chicago, becoming the latest startup seeking to bring a high-tech spin to customer retention programs.
FiveStars, founded by two former McKinsey consultants, hails from Silicon Valley and raised 14 million in venture capital funding. In Chicago, the startup has signed up about 100 businesses such as Mezza Mediterranean Grill and Andersonville Hardware.
Chicago is already home to several loyalty startups such as Ox&Pen and Belly, which has raised about 13 million in venture capital. Daily deals company Groupon also offers a loyalty program for its merchants.
FiveStars' technology is integrated with businesses' point-of-sale systems, which are "a gold mine of data" and can keep track of not just frequency of visits, but how much customers spend, said co-founder and CEO Victor Ho. Consumers can use either a FiveStars physical card or give the cashier their phone number.
"The whole point of loyalty is you treat your big spenders differently than the people who don't spend as much money in your store," Ho said.
FiveStars' system also allows merchants to reach loyal customers via email, text messages and Facebook, with users earning additional points if they publicize the rewards they've earned on social networks.
Ho said his company's Chicago office is its largest outside of the Bay Area but declined to disclose how many local employees work here, citing competitive reasons.
___ (c)2012 the Chicago Tribune Visit the Chicago Tribune at
www.chicagotribune.com Distributed by MCT Information Services
Copyright (C) 2012, Chicago Tribune