As investors, we are always looking for an edge, and there are many to be had. One of the greatest edges we have as small, individual investors is that we don't have to disclose our positions in companies. This is not true for large institutional investors, who must report their holdings to the Securities and Exchange Commission each quarter. These reports, known as 13-F's and available for public review, are required for funds with more than $100 million under management. A look at where well-known investors and institutions are placing bets allows us to follow in the footsteps of some of the best.

A career of risky bets
Phil Falcone of Harbinger Capital has made a living buying undervalued and distressed companies, as well as betting against weak financials. He has done quite well, as his net worth of $2.8 billion would attest.

Throughout his career, Falcone has made some very large and risky bets. While overall he has been successful, sometimes his investments have not panned out so well. His fund's record is a testament to this volatility. His hedge fund is down about 14% this year after returning 47% in 2009. The fund lost 29% in 2008's bear market, but in 2007 his hedge fund returned a staggering 114%.

The big bet
Falcone's latest bet may be his riskiest yet. He is taking on telecom giants Verizon (NYSE: VZ) and AT&T (NYSE: T) in an attempt to build out a wireless 4G network using LTE technology. His hedge fund has raised about $3 billion for SkyTerra Communications, and the Federal Communications Commission has given Harbinger approval to take control of the company. SkyTerra has the right to lease airwave spectrum from the FCC that it intends to use to pass information via satellites and transmission towers. Spectrum is extremely hard to get and it comes at a great cost, so SkyTerra is in a unique position. Falcone and SkyTerra have spun off a new company called LightSquared to run the operation, which he says won't be completed until 2014.

LTE vs. WiMAX
While Falcone seems to believe that LTE technology is the wave of the future in mobile wireless communication, he also has placed large bets on WiMAX technology. He owns sizable positions in Sprint (NYSE: S), a company that's using Clearwire's (Nasdaq: CLWR) WiMAX technology to build out its 4G network.

Investors have shown some concern with Clearwire's decision to use WiMAX technology while larger competitors Verizon and AT&T are building out using the LTE standard. The concerns stem from a Clearwire agreement with Intel (Nasdaq: INTC) that requires the company to use WiMAX for its 4G network into the year 2012. However, on the most recent company conference call, Clearwire CEO Bill Morrow noted that a change in the agreement now would allow either party to terminate the deal with 30 days' notice. Morrow also made it clear that Clearwire plans to stick with WiMAX for the foreseeable future.

Despite Morrow's comments, investing in Clearwire is akin to making a bet on the future viability of WiMAX in a world that's coalescing around LTE. Most industry analysts and pundits see the two technologies as very similar, noting little difference in network speed and price. However, most of the largest telecom hardware providers seem to be using LTE. Companies such as Nokia (NYSE: NOK), Sony, and Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU) are backing LTE with their products.

While some providers and telecom companies have backed away from WiMAX technology, many believe both technologies have an important place in the future of wireless. Clearwire just formed a strategic wholesale relationship with Best Buy in which the big-box retailer will use Clearwire's 4G network for its Best Buy Connect mobile Internet service. In addition, many of Sprint's most anticipated upcoming smartphones, such as the Samsung Epic, will connect to Clearwire's 4G network.

The Foolish bottom line
While Falcone's largest bet in the space is clearly on LTE technology, his investments show that he might believe there is a place for both in the future. In addition, Clearwire recently announced that it will have an LTE trial in the Phoenix market this fall, so the company has potential to benefit from both technologies. No matter which way the technology goes, the takeaway is that Falcone is clearly bullish on the telecom sector, and believes there is room for significant industry revenue growth in the coming years.

Does WiMAX technology have a future given LTE's increasing popularity? Let us know in the comments box below.

True to its name, The Motley Fool is made up of a motley assortment of writers and analysts, each with a unique perspective; sometimes we agree, sometimes we disagree, but we all believe in the power of learning from each other through our Foolish community.

  Andrew Bond owns no shares in the companies listed. Sprint Nextel, Nokia, and Best Buy are Motley Fool Inside Value picks. Best Buy is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor selection. Motley Fool Options has recommended buying calls on Best Buy and Intel. The Fool owns shares of Best Buy and Intel. The Fool has a disclosure policy.

True to its name, The Motley Fool is made up of a motley assortment of writers and analysts, each with a unique perspective; sometimes we agree, sometimes we disagree, but we all believe in the power of learning from each other through our Foolish community.

Andrew Bond owns no shares in the companies listed. Sprint Nextel, Nokia, and Best Buy are Motley Fool Inside Value picks. Best Buy is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor selection. Motley Fool Options has recommended buying calls on Best Buy and Intel. The Fool owns shares of Best Buy and Intel. The Fool has a disclosure policy.