If WiMax ever had a shot at relevance, that chance is now gone. Four of Sprint's 13 board members -- including Sprint's CEO -- have resigned from Clearwire, a firm owned 54 percent by Sprint that was deploying WiMax wireless broadband technology and dealing the service throughout the United States.
Should the Sprint action be the first stage of a withdrawal from the partner, it's doubtful Clearwire could succeed on its own. And because Sprint was planning to use the Clearwire cell towers for its WiMax "4G" service, it's hard to believe Sprint won't now simply abandon WiMax and shift to the LTE technology that other U.S. carriers are planning to deploy. In fact, earlier this year, Sprint said it was likely to deploy LTE as well as WiMax; don't be surprised if that changes to LTE only.
The reason for Sprint's board pullout is unclear, with the company only citing "antitrust" concerns. But one telecom industry insider told me the issue was that Clearwire's management was considering approaching T-Mobile for an investment, which would have put the two U.S. also-ran carriers -- Sprint and T-Mobile -- in a shotgun marriage around WiMax.
The cellular industry trade press -- Wireless Week, RCR News -- and eWeek have all reported that the German giant T-Mobile has been looking at buying Sprint, as well as buying into Clearwire to get a faster time to market for Clearwire's LTE (not WiMax) technolopgy, which Clearwire is now testing. All these scenarios suggest that Sprint's strategy as a company or just in terms of WiMax is up in the air.