Dish drops Clearwire bid, paving way for Softbank-Sprint deal


U.S. satellite broadcaster Dish Network Corp. said Wednesday it has backed out of its bidding race with Sprint Nextel Corp. for control of wireless Internet firm Clearwire Corp.

Dish’s decision to withdraw its tender offer for Clearwire, a Sprint unit that controls valuable wireless airwaves, removes the last major hurdle for Softbank Corp.’s launch of high-speed telecommunication service in the United States through its planned acquisition of Sprint.

The announcement comes after Clearwire’s board expressed support last week for Sprint’s revised offer.

Clearwire is now expected to approve Sprint’s tender offer at a shareholders’ meeting July 8. Sprint plans to make Clearwire a wholly owned unit.

Dish had sought Clearwire’s spectrum as part of an effort to build a company that could deliver a fully integrated nationwide bundle of video, television, broadband Internet and voice services.

Its proposed Clearwire takeover ran in parallel to a Dish campaign to acquire Sprint itself for $25.5 billion. But Dish abandoned that plan last week after SoftBank raised its bid for Sprint.

On Tuesday, Sprint shareholders overwhelmingly approved SoftBank’s $21.6 billion offer for a controlling stake in Sprint.

The Clearwire acquisition is key to efforts by Sprint and SoftBank to create a company with enough U.S. spectrum capacity to compete with bigger carriers Verizon and AT&T because it controls the wireless frequencies wanted by Sprint, the third-largest U.S. mobile carrier.