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Dish charges into Sprint-Clearwire hotel room waving cash

But there can be no ménage à trois here

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Dish Networks continues its mobile aspirations with a bid for Clearwire, offering more cash than the existing offer from Sprint, but with more strings attached.

The offer from Dish, which Clearwire describes as "unsolicited" and "non-binding", amounts to $2.2bn for a significant slice of Clearwire radio spectrum and an ongoing agreement for Clearwire to build and maintain a network, while Sprint is in the process of gaining a controlling share of Clearwire for $2.1bn - though Dish has filed a complaint about that deal which is awaiting regulatory approval.

The Dish offer requires Clearwire to steer clear of the financing offered by Sprint, saying that it will provide (secured) funding to help Clearwire build a mobile network.

Sprint has been quick to point out that its own offer is subject to Clearwire not selling any spectrum, and that a moratorium on deals with Dish is another clause in the offer which could be withdrawn if Clearwire decided to pursue the "illusory" and "inferior" deal.

If Dish is going to become a mobile network then it's going to need help building the infrastructure, and having more spectrum is always a good thing given that its existing holdings are encumbered by being alongside a band that Sprint is likely to end up owning - ensuring they're the neighbours from hell, so doing a deal with Clearwire will meet many of the company's requirements.

But Clearwire was already slipping into the sheets with Sprint, waiting only for the formalities to complete, and it's late to be changing partners. At a glance the deals aren't incompatible; a Sprint-owned Clearwire could sell spectrum to Dish, but clauses in both offers make it abundantly clear that a ménage à trois isn't going to happen. ®

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