A couple months back I reported that SoftBank-owned Sprint had acquired additional shares to retake a majority stake in wireless internet provider Clearwire. Well, they’re back at the buffet table and eating the rest of the pie. For $2.2 billion, Sprint will be acquiring the 49.2% of shares it doesn’t already own, making Clearwire a wholly owned subsidiary.
This move is about one thing and one thing alone: Clearwire has 160mhz of spectrum in the 2.5ghz range that it is refarming from WiMAX to TDD-LTE. Like the aforementioned WiMAX network that the companies shared, Sprint could tap into this bandwidth for its data needs and use Clearwire’s already established deployment plans. This would give Sprint both more available bandwidth and a faster rollout.
Here is the catch: Sprint’s current LTE network uses the 1900mhz PCS band and the FDD variant of LTE. Sprint LTE sold right now would not have access to the Clearwire network. Sprint would have to deploy on both the 1900mhz and 2.5ghz bands nationwide or early adopters may be left out in the cold. The only certainty is that between buyouts and mergers, the early days of LTE are constantly in flux.