One of Clearwire's biggest challenges is its complicated relationship with Sprint, which owns a majority stake in the company and sells a WiMax service that runs on Clearwire's network, Paolini said. For example, Sprint subscribers with WiMax phones pay a certain amount each month for access to Clearwire's network whether or not they live in a market where it's available. How much of Sprint's revenue should go to the company that supplies its WiMax network has been a matter of contention, Paolini said.
However, the best solution to the company's financial problems may be yet another relationship with a large carrier, such as T-Mobile USA, Paolini said. Teaming up with T-Mobile could provide a major injection of the capital needed to further expand the network, while also drawing in more potential customers through T-Mobile's subscriber relationships and marketing efforts, she said. But making that work while continuing its relationship with Sprint, a direct competitor to T-Mobile, would be even more difficult than the current arrangement.
"It's a huge opportunity, but it's not an easy agreement or business model for anybody involved," Paolini said.