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Thursday, May 08, 2008
Sprint, Cable Companies Form WiMax venture


Sprint Nextel is teaming up with top U.S. cable companies to introduce advanced wireless services and get a head start on AT&T and Verizon.

Sprint and Clearwire introduced a $14.5 billion venture with Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Intel, Google and Bright House Networks to build a high-speed wireless Internet network based on the emerging WiMax technology.

WiMax promises to blanket entire cities with Web access for laptops, cell phones and other wireless devices at fast speeds. It aims to have a service area covering as many as 140 million people in the United States by the end of 2010.

Sprint will own about 51 percent of the new company, while shareholders of Clearwire will own about 27 percent.

Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Intel, Google and cable operator Bright House will get a combined 22 percent, and are expected to kick in $3.2 billion to help finance the venture.

"The new Clearwire service area will cover as much as 120 million to 140 million people in the U.S. by the end of 2010 with the opportunity ultimately to reach more than 200 million people beyond 2010," said Clearwire CEO Benjamin Wolff.

AT&T Inc and Verizon Communications, the top two U.S. phone companies, have been offering consumers packages of television, Internet, phone and wireless services to compete against cable, as well as Sprint, which is the third-largest U.S. mobile service provider.

The WiMax venture would give cable a leg up in terms of next-generation wireless services, with speeds up to five times faster than traditional networks. Wi-Fi, by contrast, is a short range service covering small areas like coffee shops.

But WiMax is a largely unproven technology, which was why Sprint investors were critical of its earlier plan to spend $5 billion by 2010 on WiMax. An earlier WiMax partnership between Sprint and Clearwire had also fallen apart because it was too complicated.


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