Sprint to wholesale Clearwire's WiMAX service to others

Sprint Nextel (NYSE:S) said it will start wholesaling Clearwire's (NASDAQ:CLWR) mobile WiMAX network to other companies, one of the first concrete signs of the evolution of the relationship between the two companies since they announced a revised wholesale agreement in April.

Sprint, which is a wholesale customer of Clearwire itself in addition to being Clearwire's majority owner, touted communications software provider Mitel as its first named wholesale WiMAX customer. Sprint spoksman John Votava told FierceWireless that the company is in talks with smaller wireless carriers about becoming wholesale WiMAX customers and could have more announcements in the coming weeks. "We are working with companies of all shapes and sizes," he said.

Sprint said its wholesale device roadmap includes the HTC Detail smartphone (similar to the HTC Evo Shift) and a Sierra Wireless USB modem. Sprint said its wholesale WiMAX device roadmap includes additional handsets, data cards, hotspot devices and a fixed access alternative to be introduced in the coming months.

Importantly, Votava said that Sprint hasn't made a decision about whether its own internal prepaid brands--which include Virgin Mobile and Boost Mobile--will start reselling Clearwire's WiMAX service.

In addition to enterprise-oriented customers, Sprint's current CDMA wholesale customers include smaller wireless players such as Credo Mobile, Liberty Wireless and PlatinumTel.

Sprint's ability to resell Clearwire's WiMAX service to other companies was part of the revised wholesale deal Sprint and Clearwire struck in April. The agreement, under which Sprint will pay Clearwire a total of $1 billion this year and in 2012, allows each company to resell the other's network to other parties.

In that sense, the arrangement Sprint has with Clearwire is noticeably different than the one Sprint announced last week with wholesale LTE provider LightSquared. Sprint CEO Dan Hesse told FierceWireless that Sprint hasn't made a decision to resell LightSquared's network under its Sprint brand, but said Sprint might do that at some point in the future.

Clearwire reports its second-quarter earnings today after the market closes.

For more:
- see this release
- see this IDG News Service article
- see this PC Magazine article

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