In a surprising move said to address antitrust law change concerns, all Sprint executives nominated to Clearwire’s board stepped down late Thursday. Sprint CEO Dan Hesse, president of strategy and corporate initiatives Keith Cowan, and network operations and wholesale chief Steven Elfman have sat on the board since 2008’s merger of Xohm and Clearwire.
Sprint had also nominated four others, but those appointees would keep their board seats. The wireless carrier did however reserve the right to appoint new people to those positions “at a later date.” While that may indeed be true, some believe the move could be an effort to clear any concerns over a possible deal with T-Mobile.
T-Mobile and Clearwire have been talking for several months over a possible partnership. The WiMAX provider needs money, and teaming up with the nation’s fourth largest wireless carrier makes sense. T-Mobile is spectrum-strapped and needs bandwidth: Clearwire is not using a large portion of its spectrum holdings.
With the company testing out LTE, and T-Mobile already saying its eventual goal is the same, a deal seems smart. Sprint’s board members are opposed to the deal however, and the removal of its executives from the board may clear some of the opposition (Sprint owns a 54 percent stake in the company).
Although Sprint may be opposed to a T-Mobile partnership, there are benefits to such a deal for that company, too. Sprint remains committed to building out the rest of it and Clearwire’s WiMAX network, and a cash infusion from Deutsche Telekom (the parent company of T-Mobile) would go far to accomplish that goal.
The end result would be a win-win solution for both companies: T-Mobile would get a leg up on competitors on LTE, its 4G solution of choice, and Sprint would be able to complete its own 4G rollout based on WiMAX.
Neither Sprint nor T-Mobile commented on the reports beyond Thursday’s announcement.