Soon after the Softbank announcement, however, Sprint struck a deal to buy out McCaw's stake in Clearwire. Remaining Clearwire investors include cable companies Comcast Corp. and Bright House Networks, as well as chipmaker Intel Corp. Google Inc. sold its Clearwire stake in February for $1.60 per share, and Time Warner Cable Inc. sold in September at a similar price.
Sprint's offer for Clearwire continues a wave of deal-making in wireless this fall. Medium-sized players are trying to strengthen their hands to compete with the top two, Verizon Wireless and AT&T Inc. Sprint's deal with Softbank is part of that trend, as is No. 4 T-Mobile USA's deal to buy No. 5 MetroPCS Communications Inc.
Sprint has 48 million subscribers that it bills directly, compared to 96 million at Verizon and 77 million at AT&T.
Clearwire Corp. serves 10.5 million subscribers, but it only bills 1.4 million of them directly. Almost all of the rest are using Sprint devices.
Shares of Sprint Nextel Corp., based in Overland Park, Kan., fell 2 cents to close at $5.64.