Days after Sprint agreed to sell 70 percent of itself to Japan’s Softbank, America’s third largest carrier announced that it has in turn bought majority control of Clearwire, a company that holds the rights to use a massive chunk of the nation’s wireless spectrum. Gaining controlling interest of Clearwire should speed up Sprint’s LTE deployment, and could very possibly result in Sprint offering the fastest 4G network in all the land.
Clearwire is working to roll out its 20 x 20MHz LTE technology, which runs twice as fast as Verizon’s current top-tier 10×10 MHz LTE offering. The company has gone on the record saying that its 20×20 implementation managed to hit 90Mbps download speeds and 30Mbps upload speeds during some internal tests. Obviously, that’s a best-case scenario that would likely never occur in the real world, but in LATPTOP’s 4G tests a year ago, Verizon’s download speed topped out at 18 Mbps.
Sprint and Clearwire already planned to activate ClearWire’s LTE technology in 31 major cities by the middle of 2013, including Chicago, Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco. Now that it controls Clearwire, Sprint may push the company to accelerate its expansion plans in a faster time frame in order to stay competitive with AT&T and Verizon. Budget concerns from both parties have been holding back a rapid deployment thus far, but Softbank brings deep pockets and an aggressive corporate history to the table.
Sprint’s paid Eagle River Holdings, the investment company for Clearwire founder Craig McCaw, $100 million for a 5 percent of Clearwire’s shares. Reuters reports that Sprint now owns 50.8 percent of Clearwire.