ATT deal for T-Mobile could impact Sprint, Cox, Clearwire

Mon, 03/21/2011 - 9:34am
Mike Robuck

It's going to take at least a year for the dust to settle on AT&T's $39 billion bid to buy T-Mobile, but the deal could impact Sprint Nextel, Clearwire, and Cox Communications if it goes through.

Sprint's reported effort to merge with T-Mobile is now stillborn with AT&T's offer on the table. If the deal does go through, Sprint would be a distant third to AT&T, which would take over the top-spot with 130 million subscribers, and Verizon.

Other than some companies, including U.S. Cellular, Leap Wireless International and MetroPCS Communications, there's not a lot of big fish left for Sprint to go after to improve its bottom line and customer count

Sprint is the majority stakeholder in Clearwire, but Clearwire has been dogged by financial problems of its own recently, as well as an exodus of some of its top executives.

One option would be for Sprint to buy out Clearwire. Clearwire shares up to 40 percent of its tower-space with Sprint, but Sprint may be more interested in the continued build out of its own LTE network rather than Clearwire's WiMax offering.

While Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks have so far declined to invest more funds into Clearwire. Time Warner and Comcast have deals in place to provision their customers on Sprint's 3G network when they're out of Clearwire's footprint.

For now Clearwire has suspended the build out of its network to additional major metropolitan areas, which will also limit Time Warner Cable and Comcast's rebranded services entering into those new markets.

Cox Communications is leaning on Sprint's radio network and its RAN (radio access network) for its 3G service that first launched late last year until it can get its own network up and running.

While Sprint has filed its opposition to the AT&T/T-Mobile deal, a weakened Sprint isn't good for Clearwire, Clearwire's cable operator investors, and Cox.

Cable operators have struggled in the past to gear up their "quad play" bundle due to the wireless part of the equation. With AT&T gobbling up T-Mobile, cable operators in general could have a harder time with increasing their own mobile broadband offerings.



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