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Clearwire Picture Cloudy

For all the end-of-the-year talk about how the tech IPO market would come roaring back in 2007, it's been remarkably quiet so far. But things are about to heat up with the launch of the Clearwire initial public offering.

There's been quite a bit of buzz around Clearwire. It has strong footing in an emerging technology -- WiMax, a wireless broadband alternative to cable and DSL. It's backed by deep-pocketed giants such as Intel .

And above all, it's the current pet project of one of the biggest names in American entrepreneurialism: Craig McCaw.

The Clearwire IPO is headed to hit the public markets this week. It's destined to make a big splash, if for no other reason than its sheer girth. Clearwire expects to sell 20 million shares at a price between $23 and $25. Underwriters may buy another 3 million during the first month of trading if they like what they see.

If the hype holds up and Clearwire sells at the top of that range, the company will raise $500 million for itself, not counting the extra $75 million for underwriters. This deal is so big that the prospectus lists 10 underwriting firms: Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley and JPMorgan, in addition to seven also-rans.

Those securities firms and others are surely hoping that Clearwire will awaken an IPO market in prolonged hibernation.

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