Clearwire customer care to move overseas

An outsourcer that took over Clearwire's domestic support team will lay them off

Customer care calls for WiMax operator Clearwire will go to the Philippines after TeleTech Holdings, the outsourcing company that Clearwire hired last month, closes down the carrier's former call centers in the U.S.

Clearwire turned its customer care call facilities over to TeleTech as its latest step to cut costs amid continuing quarterly losses. At the time, it said about 700 of its employees would be shifted to TeleTech and that the change would be transparent to users. Clearwire said it would keep about 180 employees at the facilities, which are located in Las Vegas and in Milton, Florida, to handle back-office tasks such as operations and workforce management.

TeleTech now plans to lay off the employees at both sites and provide Clearwire customer care from call centers in the Philippines, according to TeleTech spokeswoman Jeanna Blatt. More than 300 jobs will be eliminated at each location, she said.

The move doesn't change the terms of Clearwire's contract with TeleTech and won't save the carrier any more money, Clearwire spokesman Mike DiGioia said. Clearwire's 180 workers will remain in Las Vegas and Milton, though possibly not in the same buildings, he said.

Clearwire operates a mobile WiMax network that reaches about 120 million U.S. residents and provides the 4G coverage for subscribers to Sprint Nextel, Clearwire's majority shareholder. The company also sells its own service under the Clear brand and offers WiMax through other partners, including Comcast and Time Warner Cable. Though it was the first national mobile operator with a next-generation network, Clearwire faces growing competition from Verizon Wireless and others.

The company has taken several steps in the past year to cut costs, but in the first quarter of this year, it reported a loss of US$227 million. Clearwire said then that it had enough cash and investments to continue operating for 12 months and expected to achieve positive cash flow in 2012.

Stephen Lawson covers mobile, storage and networking technologies for The IDG News Service. Follow Stephen on Twitter at @sdlawsonmedia. Stephen's e-mail address is stephen_lawson@idg.com

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