Sprint's Clearwire buyout could save unlimited data plans

Sprint's proposed $2.1 billion acquisition of the other half of Clearwire is almost bound to happen eventually, analysts say

By , IDG News Service |  

Even assuming that Sprint's $2.1 billion offer for the remainder of Clearwire includes taking on its debt, which is at least $4 billion, it would probably be a bargain price, said Recon Analytics analyst Roger Entner.

"If this is the final price, then it's certainly not a home run for Clearwire investors," Entner said. Indeed, some shareholders have already protested a Sprint buyout.

However, talks are still going on and Sprint may offer more before the deal is done.

"I think it's mostly a trial balloon," Entner said. "The price can certainly always go up."

Sprint runs the risk of having another carrier buy Clearwire out from under it, Gartner analyst Philip Redman said. "This is all about more spectrum for LTE and positioning for the future," he said.

However, the nature of Clearwire's spectrum, which is around 2.5GHz, limits the company's ability to attract other bidders, Sharma said. Clearwire has disclosed several times that it has sought to sell off some of the spectrum.

"I really doubt there will be any serious bidders," Sharma said. The high frequencies don't penetrate walls as well as other bands, such as the 700MHz spectrum used by Verizon Wireless and AT&T, and they are not contiguous because they were pieced together, he said. As a result, Sharma doesn't think the price for the company will go up by much.

Stephen Lawson covers mobile, storage and networking technologies for The IDG News Service. Follow Stephen on Twitter at @sdlawsonmedia. Stephen's e-mail address is stephen_lawson@idg.com

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