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Sprint-Clearwire: Will 3rd Pipe Dreams Come True?

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Sprint, after breaking up with Clearwire last November and walking away from the proposed WiMAX joint venture, is rethinking its position, according to the Wall Street Journal.

There is some talk that the two companies could form a joint venture and bring in outside investors, including large technology companies like Google and Intel.

Good move, for this would allow Sprint’s new CEO Dan Hesse to focus on the core mobile phone business, which is getting worse by the quarter. For Clearwire, this would save it from being a small, marginal broadband player. Intel could finally realize some of the investments it has made in WiMAX and Google could, well, give Android the push it needs. A perfect storm of converging self-interests, and with a silver lining -– the third broadband pipe.

That’s precisely what I had suggested in my essay, Should Sprint Send Silicon Valley A Super Poke?

Google and a whole slew of Silicon Valley companies that need the “third broadband pipe” could team up and invest in the new company – but on a premise that 3rdPipeDream will operate as a wholesale wireless broadband network, following the rules similar to the ones proposed by Google for the 700 MHz auction. Those in Silicon Valley who have often lamented about not getting an even (broadband) playing field can now put their money where their mouth is — in the third pipe.

Of course, I thought the odds of this actually happening were as “high as A-Fraud returning to the third base in the Yankees stadium.” Oops!

The likelihood of a joint venture grows with each passing round of the 700 MHz auction. There is a good chance that one of the larger telecom operators (Verizon or AT&T) is going to emerge as the winner in the nationwide spectrum sweepstakes.

Google’s unlikely to go the distance, despite all of their public posturing. What Google (and other Silicon Valley companies) need is their own broadband option. We have written about this before, but let me remind you how serious the carriers are about using their infrastructure and becoming part of an online advertising ecosystem, a much bigger pot of gold compared with the managed-delivery of content over their pipes.

This is Silicon Valley’s chance to control some of its own (broadband) destiny and not just whine about it.

8 Responses to “Sprint-Clearwire: Will 3rd Pipe Dreams Come True?”

  1. It is not quite accurate to characterize a Clearwire/Sprint Wimax service as a third broadband pipe. The first two ‘broadband pipes’ are chasing each other up to 10Mbps++ in 2008 and 25Mbps++ in 2009, depending on your location and service provider. Clearwire and Sprint’s broadband service will most likely offer up to 3Mbps or perhaps 4.5Mbps at the top end due to spectrum and related economics constraints.
    It is probably more accurate to identify the service as an alternative to Verizon’s EVDO or AT&T’s HSDPA services for laptops and fixed PC’s.

  2. Om,

    I think you’re analysis is 100% spot on. Involving Intel and Google essentially positions WiMax as the competitive enforcer for mobile and wireless services.

    Again, great analysis, and great post.