Clearwire joins RCA, notes spectrum backstop

Clearwire (NASDAQ:CLWR) became the latest carrier to join the Rural Cellular Association, adding even more heft to an organization that has essentially added all competitive wireless carriers except AT&T Mobility (NYSE:T) and Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ).

In adding Clearwire, the RCA finished notching an impressive roster of additions to its member list. RCA added T-Mobile USA as a member in March, less than a year after Sprint Nextel (NYSE:S) joined the RCA as an affiliate member.

Recently, the RCA changed its bylaws to accommodate larger carriers. The association, which previously was an advocate for carriers with fewer than 10 million customers, now supports operators with fewer than 80 million subscribers, putting it squarely against the interests of AT&T and Verizon, which are larger than that threshold. (Clearwire ended first quarter with 11 million total subscribers.)

The RCA has focused on the past few months on getting smaller carriers more spectrum, and has steadfastly opposed Verizon's attempts to purchase $3.9 billion of AWS spectrum from cable companies. Clearwire's vast spectrum holdings and emphasis on wholesale could potentially help smaller carriers.

"The many issues facing our business, including competitive balance, the spectrum crisis and the rapidly growing consumer demand for mobile broadband all require the type of cooperation and solutions that Clearwire is well positioned to provide," said Don Stroberg, senior vice president of strategic partnerships and wholesale at Clearwire. "Our deep spectrum portfolio can be an important resource for relieving the growing capacity strain on today's 4G deployments."

In other Clearwire news, Crest Financial said Friday it had taken a 5.9 percent stake in the company, making it one of Clearwire's largest minority shareholders. Sprint holds the majority of Clearwire's shares, with 54 percent.

Crest said Clearwire's shares were undervalued at current levels (they closed at $1.55 per share on Friday), and that it would like to discuss the possibility of adding board members. A Clearwire spokesman declined to comment.

For more:
- see this release
- see this SEC filing
- see this MarketWatch article
- see this Reuters article

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