Clearwire: Sprint's iDEN shutdown to affect 'small number' of co-located WiMAX sites

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Sprint Nextel's (NYSE:S) push to shut down its iDEN network is a major element of its Network Vision network modernization plan, but it also could cause partner Clearwire (NASDAQ:CLWR) to let go of some its own mobile WiMAX sites earlier than expected, according to a regulatory filing.

Clearwire has mobile WiMAX equipment co-located on some of Sprint's iDEN sites, including sites that are slated for decommissioning. Sprint has so far taken 9,600 Nextel iDEN cell sites off the air, earlier than previous guidance of doing so by the end of the third quarter. Sprint said last week it has completed the "thinning" of its iDEN network for this year.

In a regulatory filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Clearwire said "it is not likely that we would continue to operate our equipment at the current location once Sprint decommissions its site."

Clearwire therefore said that it cut the remaining "useful life" of such equipment from an average of five years down to one to two years "based on the expected date of decommissioning. We will continue to monitor the estimated useful lives of our network assets as our plans continue to evolve." Clearwire disclosed similar language in an SEC filing at the end of the first quarter.

It is not clear how many Clearwire cell sites are co-located with iDEN cell sites. Currently, Clearwire's WiMAX network covers 134 million people across the country. Sprint referred questions on the matter to Clearwire.

"We are working closely with Sprint to mitigate any possible effect on our WiMAX customers and on our LTE build," Clearwire spokesman Mike DiGioia told FierceWireless. "This work is still underway and customers can continue to use WiMAX as they normally would." He declined to give a precise figure for how many Clearwire cell sites may be affected by the iDEN decommissioning but said it is a "small number of sites."

Sprint is shutting down its iDEN network to make room for its LTE network. Sprint has said the network may be shut down as early as June 30, 2013. That date is when Clearwire expects to have launched the first wave of its TDD-LTE network on 5,000 cell sites.

Sprint late last year signed an agreement with Clearwire to offload its traffic in select areas onto Clearwire's planned TDD-LTE network. Sprint earlier this month switched on its first few LTE markets.

Clearwire currently counts around 11 million subscribers on its WiMAX network.

For more:
- see this SEC filing

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