Report: Sprint hatching network sharing deals with Clearwire, LightSquared

Sprint Nextel (NYSE:S) is in advanced negotiations to strike network sharing deals with both Clearwire (NASDAQ:CLWR) and LightSquared, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal

The report, citing unnamed sources, said the deals will allow LightSquared and Clearwire to build out their networks more cheaply, and in exchange Sprint would get new revenue streams and access to the companies' spectrum. Bloomberg reported in February that LightSquared was considering a network sharing deal with Sprint. A deal between LightSquared and Sprint has not been signed and could fall apart, the WSJ report said, but added that Sprint's board has approved the broad outlines of a deal.

If Sprint and LightSquared do strike a deal to allow LightSquared to use Sprint's network infrastructure, it could scuttle Nokia Siemens Networks' $7 billion deal with LightSquared to design and build LightSquared's wholesale LTE network. Sprint has selected Alcatel-Lucent (NASDAQ:ALU), Ericsson (NASDAQ:ERIC) and Samsung for its CDMA network modernization project, which will cost $4 billion to $5 billion. The project is expected to take three to five years to complete and includes the deployment of new, multi-mode base stations, which could allow Sprint to deploy LTE. A deal with LightSquared would allow Sprint to gain access to LightSquared's L-band spectrum, which could help it deploy LTE service in rural parts of the country.

Representatives for Sprint, Clearwire and LightSquared declined to comment. A Nokia Siemens spokeswoman said the company continues "to work with LightSquared to help them ready their first markets and meet their commitments."

Separately, Sprint today announced a deal that resolves its wholesale pricing dispute with Clearwire. Under the terms of the agreement, Sprint will pay Clearwire a total of $1 billion this year and in 2012. Sprint owns a 54 percent stake in Clearwire and resells its mobile WiMAX service.

During Sprint's fourth-quarter earnings conference call in February, Sprint CEO Dan Hesse said laboratory testing for carrier's new base stations will be conducted in the first quarter and that Sprint expects field integration to take place in the second quarter. Hesse said that if Clearwire (NASDAQ:CLWR) uses Sprint's modernized network it could result in significant cost savings for both companies.

For more:
- see this WSJ article (sub. req.)

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