Sprint Nextel will turn its new high-speed wireless network into a joint venture with Kirkland's Clearwire, people familiar with the decision...
Sprint Nextel will turn its new high-speed wireless network into a joint venture with Kirkland’s Clearwire, people familiar with the decision said Tuesday.
Cellphone carrier Sprint will get more than $3 billion in funding from companies such as Intel, Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Google for the network, which uses WiMax technology, said the people, who asked to remain anonymous because the talks are private. With the funding, the venture is valued at about $12 billion.
WiMax will provide faster Internet access for laptops and handsets than current mobile-phone networks, while offering broader coverage than wireless fidelity, or Wi-Fi, systems.
Separating the WiMax unit may remove a $2 billion annual drain on Sprint’s cash, Credit Suisse analyst Christopher Larsen said in March.
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“The major issue for Sprint was the money,” said Nadine Manjaro, an analyst at ABI Research. “If Comcast, Google and Time Warner invest the money, you’ll definitely see it taking off.”
Sprint stock rose 41 cents, or 4.5 percent, to $9.60 in extended trading Tuesday after the agreement was reported by The Wall Street Journal. Overland Park, Kan.-based Sprint had climbed 47 cents to $9.19 in regular New York Stock Exchange composite trading.
Clearwire gained 13.9 percent in extended trading, rising $2.29 to $18.75. It had closed the regular trading session up $1.29, or 8.5 percent, at $16.46 on the Nasdaq Stock Market.
Intel spokeswoman Kari Aakre, Comcast spokesman John Demming, Time Warner Cable spokeswoman Maureen Huff and Google spokesman Jon Murchinson declined to comment. Sprint’s Leigh Horner and Clearwire’s Susan Johnston didn’t immediately return phone messages.
Clearwire and Sprint had scrapped a WiMax alliance in November after initially agreeing in July to team up, fueling concern the technology might be overshadowed by rival standards such as Long-Term Evolution.
The latter technology is backed by Verizon Communications, the second-largest U.S. phone company. It may be ready by 2010, Verizon Chief Executive Ivan Seidenberg said in March.
The Sprint deal may bolster Clearwire, which has yet to turn a profit and posted a $727.5 million net loss last year. Its stock has declined 8.7 percent since Nov. 8, the day before Sprint and Clearwire ended their original agreement.
“This certainly would be a positive development for both Sprint and Clearwire shareholders,” said Michael Nelson, an analyst at Stanford Group in New York.
“It’s a positive for Sprint, but potentially transformational for Clearwire.”
Comcast, based in Philadelphia, will contribute $1.05 billion to the venture, and Intel will add $1 billion, the people familiar with the agreement said
The network will get $550 million from Time Warner Cable, $500 million from Google and $100 million from cable operator Bright House Networks, the people said.
An additional $10 million will come from Trilogy Equity Partners, the investment firm co-founded by John Stanton, the former CEO of Bellevue-based Western Wireless, the people said.
Alltel purchased Western Wireless in 2005.
Stanton and Bright House Networks spokeswoman Jennifer Mooney didn’t immediately return phone messages.
Intel’s Arvind Sodhani, president of the Santa Clara, Calif.-based chip maker’s investment arm, initiated talks on the new agreement after the previous deal between Sprint and Clearwire failed, one of the people said.
Sodhani was a Clearwire board member from August 2006 until last December.
For Intel, the world’s largest semiconductor maker, WiMax is a way to entice consumers and businesses to buy new laptop computers.
Intel has relied on earlier wireless technologies to spur sales of its Centrino laptop chips.
The company has updated the Centrino products every year since their debut in 2003, adding capabilities such as faster Wi-Fi transmitters.
Intel, the largest shareholder in Clearwire with a 20 percent stake, will begin including WiMax radio chips in Centrino products in the second half of this year.
The company uses its Intel Capital investment arm to spur the growth of technologies that will benefit sales of its microprocessors.
The investment unit spent $639 million in 166 deals last year.
Bloomberg News reporter Todd Shields in Washington contributed to this report