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Clearwire-Sprint Deal to Take Two Years?

11:55 AM -- Renewed speculation on a Clearwire LLC (Nasdaq: CLWR)-Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S) joint venture has some speculating that a deal could take a long time to nail down.

Up to two years, suggests an unnamed banker quoted in the Financial Times. I could see it too -- look at how short and fraught the companies' previous liaison was. (See Clearwire & Sprint: On Again? and Clearwire Q4 Drops, WiMax News Doesn't.)

Nonetheless, a long courtship wouldn't be good news for either operator. The whole point of a partnership between the two is that it gives both more muscle to get WiMax established as a viable 4G in the U.S. before Verizon Wireless steams in with Long-Term Evolution (LTE) technology. Sprint says it will have its first WiMax networks up and running in April. The pair need to have the widest WiMax footprint -- and a proven reliable service -- running smoothly by 2010.

Since we know that the companies have had some kind of talks going since at least January and probably long before that it would seem that the impetus is to get a deal done. (See Clearwire Roams With Sprint.) Particularly on Clearwire's side, since it is not, ahem, clear that the firm can afford the massive undertaking of deploying a nationwide WiMax network in the U.S. anyway.

In fact, the natural venue to announce a renewed partnership would be at the CTIA Wireless show next week. Despite the fact that the show will be in Vegas this year, however, I'm not placing any bets.

— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Unstrung

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