Sprint Nextel exploring WiMAX options
By Kelly Hill
Story posted: June 14, 2007 - 2:11 pm EDT

Sprint Nextel Corp. is determined to push WiMAX into existence and then ubiquity, and the company may explore a range of financial and strategic options in order to make that happen, CEO Gary Forsee told an industry conference earlier this week.

Forsee said that he has been ?very clear ? that there are opportunities for us to do a number of things, strategically and potentially financially, that could ensure that the business plan is achieved, that the technology is ubiquitously deployed, and financially that our shareholders could perhaps see some benefit of that before waiting the four or five years before the business would return [a profit.]?

Forsee added that Sprint Nextel would consider working with several kinds of companies that might be interested in making an investment in WiMAX: companies with a ?self-interest in seeing WiMAX deployed,? such as the vendors and partners that the carrier is currently working with; companies who could ?bring tonnage? (read: usage) to the network under wholesale arrangements; or companies that are interested in helping build a WiMAX network to help ensure ubiquity of coverage.

The Wall Street Journal reported that Sprint Nextel is in conversations with Clearwire Corp. to potentially spin off its WiMAX operations, due to pressure from shareholders who are nervous about the cost of the infrastructure investments while the company?s wireless customer metrics are still lagging. Such a deal might encompass a spinoff or a less far-reaching partnership such as a roaming agreement or spectrum acquisition from Clearwire, the WSJ reported, citing anonymous sources familiar with the matter.

For his part, Forsee noted that Sprint Nextel has experience in various structures from joint ventures to spinoffs and that the company would ?look at all of those opportunities? as well as at keeping the operations on the carrier?s own balance sheet.

?We believe this is part of the future of the company, and maintaining control is going to be very important,? Forsee said.

Forsee reiterated the carrier?s timeline for establishing initial markets for WiMAX, with trials running late this year and a commercial launch in the late first quarter of 2008. Currently, three vendors are building out the network in three markets: Samsung Corp. in Chicago, Nokia Corp. in Seattle and Motorola Inc. in the Baltimore-Washington, D.C. area. The company has announced other cities where it plans to launch WiMAX that will bring Sprint Nextel?s covered potential customers to 100 million by the end of 2008.