Sprint Wholesale 4G: Good for Clearwire

5:50 PM -- For those worried about the solidity of Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S)'s partnership with Clearwire LLC (Nasdaq: CLWR), Sprint's new Wholesale 4G program should reassure you that the carrier is tied to its WiMax partner for the foreseeable future.

See, Sprint is now going to open its 4G network to wholesale partners like Mitel Networks Corp. so that they can resell faster mobile broadband access. In point of fact, however, Sprint's 4G service runs over the Clearwire WiMax network in more than 70 cities in the U.S.

So, the wholesale customer is offering other users a wholesale service using Clearwire's network.

Taken in tandem with the fact that Sprint sold 1.7 million WiMax handsets in the second quarter, this should show that Sprint is going to be relying on the Clearwire network for growth in the coming year or two. The operator's updated "Network Vision" base stations, which can support CDMA, WiMax and Long Term Evolution (LTE), aren't likely to start coming online until 2012, and it will take a few years to completely update the nationwide footprint.

The major short-term question for Clearwire will involve whether a wholesale boost to its customer base will give it enough money to spend on updating its WiMax footprint in the next 18 months.

It could, of course, revisit the idea of selling some spectrum to get some cash, but it's not clear if that will happen yet.

There's no need for Clearwire investors to get jittery yet. Sprint won't let its source of mobile growth die -- at least not in the short-term.

— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Light Reading Mobile

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