Sprint Faces 4G Dilemma

Sprint Nextel Corp. (S) has bet its future on offering speedy data services to mobile devices over a new high-speed, “4G” network and has joined with upstart Clearwire Corp. (CLWR) to build it.

But Clearwire has a problem: It needs billions of dollars to finish building its nationwide network. And now Sprint, which owns 54 percent of Clearwire, must decide whether to fund the project itself or turn to a competitor for help.

Sprint’s board of directors is debating whether to let rival cellphone operator T-Mobile USA invest in Clearwire, three people familiar with the situation said.

Such a decision would consolidate the U.S. telecom landscape by enabling the country’s third- and fourth-largest wireless operators to use the same next-generation network.

T-Mobile USA Chief Executive Robert Dotson said early this year that his carrier is looking at its options for 4G, including having conversations with Clearwire. However, T-Mobile USA hasn’t put a proposal on the table, so no decision is imminent, and some Sprint board members are adamantly opposed to the idea, these people said.

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