Sprint, Clearwire Join Cable, Tech Companies For WiMax JV

Sprint finally gets its WiMax deal: As soon as tomorrow, it’s expected to announce a $12 billion joint venture with Clearwire (CLWR) to sell wireless Internet and phone service, the WSJ reports.

A long list of backers includes Comcast (CMCSA), which will contribute $1.05 billion; Intel (INTC), which will kick in $1 billion; and Google (GOOG), which will contribute $500 milion. The JV, majority owned by Sprint, would take the Clearwire name and executive team, including CEO Ben Wolff and Chairman Craig McCaw.

What does that mean?

  • Sprint’s (S) new CEO Dan Hesse finally gets a huge monkey off his back, and can focus on fixing the rest of his struggling mobile phone business. Yesterday, reports suggested that he is considering selling or spinning off his Nextel walkie-talkie unit, and that German telco Deutsche Telekom (DT) is considering a bid for Sprint.
  • The cable companies, which also include Time Warner Cable (TWC) and Brighthouse, will get to sell mobile phone and high-speed wireless Internet under their own brands. This reduces the advantage held by AT&T (T) and Verizon (VZ), which are able to bundle (slower) wireless service with their home phone, Internet, and cable TV services.
  • Intel gets solid support for WiMax, which it has invested heavily in, as it prepares for an eventual format war with competing “LTE” technology.
  • Google will presumably get to run some sort of mobile Web portal, with Google-brokered ads. It might also get an inside hook to get its Android devices distributed via Clearwire.

The big unknown: Who’s going to use Clearwire?

The most obvious Clearwire subscribers are people who currently use slower, “3G” laptop cards to connect to the Internet when they’re not in a wi-fi zone. More widespread adoption will take a while, as consumer electronics companies eventually build WiMax into a variety of mobile phones and gadgets like portable video game consoles, laptops, etc.

What would be killer? An Apple (AAPL) iPod touch with a slightly bigger screen and WiMax support. Please, guys?

See Also:
Sprint’s WiMax Delays Will Make The ‘4G’ Format War Worth Watching
Comcast, Time Warner Cable To Fund Sprint-Clearwire WiMax Venture?

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