US operator Clearwire has outsourced the operations of its 4G network to Ericsson in a seven-year deal aimed at slashing costs.
Announcing the deal, Ericsson said it would assume responsibility for engineering, operations and maintenance of Clearwire's core, transmission and access networks.
Clearwire will retain ownership of all network assets and control over network technology and strategy decisions, and said it will remain the primary point of contact for customers.
The agreement will involve the transfer of around 700 Clearwire employees to Ericsson before mid-year.
The operator didn't disclose the size of the deal, or the savings it expects to achieve - except to say they would be “significant.”
Clearwire was forced to cut 15% of its staff and stop opening new retail stores due to a shortage of cash, in a move disclosed late last year.
Ericsson entered a similar $5 billion deal with Sprint, Clearwire's wholesale partner and largest shareholder, in 2009.
Clearwire operates a Wimax network and provides capacity to Sprint Nextel, but Sprint has 4G ambitions of its own, and the two are in talks over a wider network sharing deal. It has been suggested that the pair might team up to deploy a nationwide LTE network.
But Sprint Nextel has also been reported to be also discussing providing capacity over the 4G network to greenfield operator LightSquared to help that company meet its ambitious nationwide network plans. Such a deal could potentially influence the Sprint-Clearwire partnership.