The FCC has given the go-ahead to the New Clearwire Corporation joint venture, which has plans to roll out mobile WiMAX across the US.

Comprising Sprint Nextel (51 percent) and Clearwire (27 percent) – with the remaining equity held by Intel, Google, TimeWarner Cable, Comcast and Bright House Networks – AT&T had objected to the proposed JV on the grounds it had not fully disclosed the amount of spectrum it would be using in the 2.5GHz frequency band and so could, potentially, be an unfair competitive threat.

But the FCC saw nothing untoward in the New Clearwire proposal. “The companies had demonstrated that the transaction will be in the public interest with no competitive harm identified in any market,” said the FCC ruling. 

There are, however, some conditions attached to the FCC’s JV approval. Sprint Nextel, says the FCC ruling, needs to “comply with a voluntary commitment to phase out its requests for federal high-cost universal service support over a five-year transition period and [enter into] a voluntary commitment to use counties for measuring compliance with the Commission’s wireless E911 location accuracy rules governing handset-based technologies”.

FCC’s blessing of New Clearwire has spurred IPCS, a Sprint affiliate, to step up its legal efforts to block the JV from going ahead on the grounds it would break a service exclusivity agreement it has with the mobile operator in some regions in the US. IPCS is pursing its litigation efforts against New Clearwire in Illinois where it is expecting the start of a court hearing on 21 November regarding whether the New Clearwire JV is legal or not.

As a shareholder vote on the New Clearwire JV is slated for 20 November by Sprint and Clearwire, a day before the court hearing starts, IPCS has requested a preliminary injunction against the closing of the JV.

IPCS’ latest legal move prompted a withering email response from Sprint. “The motion is unnecessary and an overreaction,” reads the statement. “Clearwire has generated national public interest and involves the build-out of a nationwide network, with IPCS territory amounting to an extremely small portion. Further, the launch of WiMax in IPCS territory is not set to occur until well after a final decision by the court on this very issue, and we believe these issues can and should be addressed outside the scope of the Clearwire transaction closing.”

IPCS posted a poor set of 3Q 2008 results this week, with year-on-year net profit falling from $7.5m to $2.4m. IPCS revenue fell to $132.1m to 142.1m.

There is renewed speculation among some analysts that Sprint may end up acquiring IPCS in a stock deal.