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Clearwire and Sprint this morning announced a new agreement that could provide Clearwire with as much as $1.6 billion over the next four years. With the deal, the Kirkland-based wireless broadband company announced that it has made a $237 million debt payment that it had considered skipping to preserve cash.

Also of note: The companies agreed that ClearWire’s WiMAX network will operate through at least 2015, even as the companies shift their focus to the competing LTE standard. Sprint, which uses Clearwire’s WiMAX network for its 4G wireless service, said it will continue selling WiMAX devices until at least 2012, and support them under two-year contracts.

Clearwire shares — which plunged when the company was considering skipping its debt payment — are up significantly on the news of the funding this morning.

The deal illustrates the complicated relationship between Clearwire and Sprint, which is simultaneously Clearwire’s majority owner and largest customer. It also shows that Clearwire made an ill-fated bet, spending big to build out its WiMAX network and now reversing course as LTE emerges as the more popular standard.

Under the deal, Sprint will pay Clearwire $926 million for WiMAX over the next two year, and up to $350 in pre-payments to help fund Clearwire’s efforts to roll out an LTE network. In addition, Sprint committed to provide up to $347 million in additional funding to Clearwire as part of a possible future equity funding round for the Kirkland company.

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