Sprint, which already held 48 percent of Clearwire, sought the majority stake to give it added sway over the fate of the company’s wireless-networking capabilities, including lucrative airwaves needed to deliver mobile calling and data. That stands to make Sprint more attractive to Tokyo-based Softbank, which is paying $20.1 billion for most of the third-biggest U.S. mobile- phone company.
“Softbank wants firm ground in the U.S.,” said Jeff Kagan, an independent telecommunications analyst. “It gives the combined company much more spectrum, much more ability to deliver services.”
Sprint, based in Overland Park, Kansas, has no immediate plans for an outright takeover of Bellevue, Washington-based Clearwire, people with knowledge of the matter said this week. Backing by Softbank gives Sprint more firepower to use in its contest with AT&T Inc. (T) and Verizon Wireless. Still, a full Clearwire acquisition is seen as too expensive, the people said.