Sprint, America’s third largest operator, has a 54% stake in Clearwire, a WiMAX operator that plans to transition to 4G LTE technology pending their ability to acquire some additional funding. According to Bloomberg, talks are taking place among Sprint and the other Clearwire stakeholders whereby the end goal is to make Sprint the sole owner of Clearwire, and thus able to easier inject money into the company, which in turn accelerates the transition from WiMAX to LTE. Now why is this important? Clearwire was a wonderful concept on paper, but then failed miserably in terms of execution. The plan was to have several companies throw some money in a pot that would be used to build out an advanced high speed network that any business could buy access to and then resell to consumers. First mistake, buying spectrum in the 2.5 GHz band, which means you need to install more cell towers to cover a given area than say Verizon or AT&T need to with their much more attractive 700 MHz spectrum. Second mistake, picking WiMAX, a technology that anyone with enough common sense could have told you would never take off since LTE was, at the time, right around the cornet. Third mistake, setting up Clearwire as an independent brand that competed on the open market with the businesses that wanted to resell access to Clearwire’s network.
If Sprint manages to make this deal go through, and becomes the sole owner of Clearwire, they should just take the Clearwire brand behind a barn and kill it with dignity. They should also rejigger their current spectrum deployment and put some of that prime 900 MHz real estate, which was originally used for iDEN, to some good use with delicious LTE action.
Of course that makes too much sense, so it’ll likely never happen, and Sprint will slowly become irrelevant after AT&T’s acquisition of T-Mobile is approved by the same government that broke up AT&T back in 1984.