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Rumors swirl in WiMAX world

Sprint-Clearwire detente?

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There could be changes afoot in the world of WiMAX. One rumor-happy research firm is claiming that US WiMAX pioneer Clearwire may soon be purchased by Intel, while another is speculating that the company will soon resume its defunct WiMAX relationship with Sprint Nextel.

As reported by RCR Wireless News, an analyst with Raymond James & Associates spilled a research report last week saying that Clearwire's stock price was leaping after on rumors that a sale was imminent.

According to the report, potential buyers include Intel, wireless tower operator American Tower, and "a private third party." It's no secret that Intel is rather high on this broadband wireless technology, offering silicon for WiMAX-happy devices.

Clearwire's fortunes took a turn for the worse earlier last month after it severed ties with Sprint Nextel. The two companies had agreed to combine their fledgling WiMAX networks, but the agreement was shredded because of the partnership's "complexities." Without outside help, we'd argue, neither operation has any hope of reaching a nationwide audience anytime soon.

But Unstrung turned up a new report from financial analyst firm Think Equity Partners insisting that Sprint and Clearwire will eventually kiss and make up.

"We remain convinced of the logic of a Sprint/Clearwire alliance," the report reads. "We highlight the fact that the companies continue their discussions on the subject, although we expect no new agreement prior to a new Sprint CEO coming aboard."

"If they don't get together at some point, they're going to be competitors and that's not good for both of them," Eric Kainer, the report's daddy, told us. "If they get together, they can have jointly lower costs and a faster build-out and less risk. We've got all these milk and honey things lining up, and of course they're going to go for them."

Wireless watchers have questioned the future of Sprint's WiMAX network - known as Xohm - ever since the resignation in October of CEO Gary Forsee, the network's chief cheerleader.

Meanwhile, Sprint says all this is just guesswork. "I’m only aware of one report and it was rife with speculation. It’s our policy not to comment on speculation," said a company spokesman. "Fulfilling a self-imposed deadline and promise to the marketplace, we confirmed we are in soft launch mode as employees in three cities (Chicago, Baltimore and Washington DC) experience the Xohm WiMAX network and contribute to further network optimization." We also contacted Clearwire, but they ignored us.®

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