One reason SoftBank was keen on taking a controlling stake in Sprint: Sprint had a large minority stake in Clearwire, the operator of a nationwide wireless-data network.The problem: Sprint didn’t really control Clearwire. But it soon will, according to reports in Bloomberg and the Wall Street Journal.
The WSJ said Sprint was looking to buy shares from other major investors instead of making a bid for the rest of the company. Bloomberg said that Eagle River Holdings, the investment vehicle of Clearwire founder Craig McCaw, would sell its 4.5 per cent stake to Sprint, giving it, and soon, SoftBank, control over Clearwire.
So why does Clearwire matter to SoftBank?
Five letters: TD-LTE, short for time-division long-term evolution. It’s a particular flavour of fourth-generation wireless data technology that SoftBank is favouring for its Japanese network. If it’s also adopted in the US, that will give SoftBank additional clout with network equipment manufacturers and smartphone makers.
And of course, Clearwire has spectrum, which is the clearest measuring stick in the telecom business. And SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son has made it clear he’s concerned about how he measures up.