A WiMax Godzilla in the Making – Will it Come to China?

On the Kohala Coast
Listening tearfully to the strains of “Aloha Oe”
2138 hrs.

As we pack up to shift the Silicon Hutong pennant from Hawaii to California for the next two weeks prior to returning to Beijing, an interesting article has come up in The Hollywood Reporter, where Diane Mermigas writes in her column that News Corporation and its DirecTV unit are chatting with all kinds of interesting people, including Craig McCaw’s Clearwire Corporation, about setting up a nationwide WiMax network in the U.S.

All of which is terribly interesting, of course, but what makes it a real head nodder from the China perspective is when you consider the following:

• It’s no secret that News Corporation has long held designs on China, and that it’s recent strategic shift in the PRC is away from broadcast and toward broadband – in particular, wireless broadband – a deal secured by becoming partners with China Mobile in Phoenix TV.

• Clearwire and Craig McCaw also have ambitions in China of no less intensity than Rupert Murdoch’s.

• Clearwire will, in all likelihood, not get a license to operate is WiMax services in China as a carrier.

A match-up between Clearwire, News Corporation, and China Mobile, on the other hand, would have extremely interesting possibilities.

• Clearwire has technology but needs an operator partner in China and, probably, some content.

• News Corporation has content and an operator partner but needs new channels and thus new technologies.

• China Mobile has customers and serious political pull, but needs both technology and content to build an unassailable position for itself as 3G rolls out in China. As Fons points out quite correctly, it sure doesn’t seem to be going anywhere in its global expansion efforts.

The call in the Hutong: if NewsCorp signs a deal with Clearwire in the USA, the next jump for the partnership (after side deals involving Canada and Australia) will be China.