Such a sale would be shortsighted for Clearwire, according to Roger Entner, an analyst at Recon Analytics. All spectrum is getting more valuable, he said.
"If you have any choice, you're not selling it," Entner said. "In the long run, everybody will need all the spectrum they have, twice over."
Clearwire has tried to sell its spectrum before and couldn't find buyers, because its frequencies are outside the bands most U.S. carriers use. But more advanced versions of LTE will let carriers combine different frequencies together, making it easier to take advantage of the Clearwire licenses, Entner said.
Sprint is more likely to be Clearwire's savior than its doom, though it won't be able to buy Clearwire unless Softbank's recently proposed US$20 billion investment in Sprint is approved, Entner said.
However, a spectrum sale might be the best option from the perspective of an investor that wants to earn a return on its money soon, he added.
If Clearwire's finances reach the breaking point, Sprint may get what it needs anyway, according to Gartner analyst Phillip Redman. The most valuable spectrum licenses in Clearwire's portfolio came from Sprint and might just go back to Sprint if the company were dissolved, he said. "I think Sprint would like to unwind its spectrum--may be easier to do after bankruptcy," Redman said in an email interview.
Whatever happens to Clearwire and its spectrum, consumers are likely to win out in the end, Recon's Entner said. The spectrum will still be there, and whatever service provider owns it will make use of it, he said. "One way or another, they'll be fine."