The RCA's latest roster addition is Clearwire
Until recently, the RCA bylaws limited its membership to those carriers with fewer than 10 million subscribers, but it realized it needed more clout than those smaller carriers could bring to protect its members' interests. So the organization reset the upper limit high enough to welcome companies like Sprint, with its 48 million subscribers, and T-Mobile USA, with its 33 million -- but not high enough to let in AT&T, at 104 million, nor Verizon, with its 93 million.
The importance of Clearwire's addition, though, isn't its size -- it only has 1.3 million retail subscribers to go along with its 9.7 million wholesale customers -- but rather the united front the RCA can now bring to bear in the inevitable fights over whatever spectrum frequencies the Federal Communications Commission will offer up in the future.
Right now, the RCA is at the forefront of the opposition to Verizon's recent large spectrum acquisitions. For $3.9 billion and some cross-marketing agreements, Verizon bought a large cache of wireless spectrum from several cable companies. The giant carrier has to show that this deal won't have an anticompetitive effect. If it can't, however, that spectrum will again be on the table for possible purchase by the RCA members.
Clearwire hopes to get a boost from joining the RCA, but the perpetually on-the-brink mobile broadband provider definitely got a shot in the arm late last week when investment company Crest Financial bought a 5.9% state in it. Crest cited in its filing that it thought Clearwire was presently undervalued. Clearwire is still majority-owned by Sprint.
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