T-Mobile USA is reportedly in talks to access network capacity from rival US operators Clearwire and MetroPCS in a bid to beef up its high-speed network, reports Bloomberg. According to people familiar with the matter, the Deutsche Telekom-owned operator is looking at the most cost-effective way of building a nationwide high-speed network in order keep pace with rivals such as AT&T and Verizon Wireless, which are already planning to upgrade their networks to enable so-called 4G services. Sprint Nextel, which owns 51 percent of Clearwire, is also involved in the talks with Bonn-based Deutsche Telekom, the people said, though – contrary to some reports last week – the German firm is not considering making an outright offer for Sprint. Clearwire said in August it needed US$2 billion by year-end to complete its own network expansion, and Deutsche Telekom could provide funding in exchange for access, one source said.

Clearwire operates a WiMAX network and, according to regulatory filings, claims to hold more airwaves than any other operator in the US. The company combined its services with Sprint last year. “This deal would involve significantly less money [than acquiring Sprint outright], but still allow T-Mobile to offer 4G services,” Dave Novosel, an analyst at Gimme Credit, wrote in a report. “It would avoid the burdensome integration process and considerable up-front costs of assimilating operations.” Meanwhile, Dallas-based MetroPCS – a prepaid operator – paid US$300 million last year to acquire spectrum in the 700MHz band, which is considered suitable for next-generation mobile technologies such as LTE. T-Mobile USA is the country’s fourth-largest mobile operator but trails its larger rivals in high-speed services, only launching 3G (WCDMA) services last year. None of the operators involved in the Bloomberg report were willing to comment.