In certain markets, Sprint has always used affiliates to sell its service, rather than building out its own efforts. Some of those affiliate relationships caused problems back in 2004/2005 when Sprint merged with Nextel -- as Nextel's service existed in some of those markets, potentially "competing" with the Sprint affiliates who had agreements that Sprint would not compete directly. So, with the new WiMax joint venture
with Clearwire, Sprint knew that the big affiliate iPCS would be upset. In fact, last week, Sprint sued iPCS in Delaware
seeking a declaratory judgment that the new joint venture did not
break their agreement with iPCS. That lawsuit appears to have been filed slightly before iPCS filed its own lawsuit in Illinois
against Sprint. Chances are the two suits will be combined in some manner, but it's yet another hurdle that Sprint needs to clear before it can get this new WiMax offering off the ground. Sprint may have a decent claim here -- as the agreement with iPCS is focused only on 1.9GHz spectrum, whereas the WiMax network is on 2.5GHz spectrum. Either way, it seems like these affiliate relationships may be a lot more pain than they're worth.