In what appears to be yet another nail in the Clearwire ( CLWR) WiMax coffin, venture partner Sprint ( S) is reportedly exploring long-term evolution, or LTE, as a wireless upgrade path, according to a post on Om Malik's GigaOm blog.

In a reply from Sprint posted on GigaOM, a Sprint representative said the company was committed to WiMax. However, the rep added that the company is "collecting competitive information about various technologies/equipment to monitor and assess the competitive landscape and any potential impacts to Sprint's plans."

There are essentially two choices for telcos hoping to move from 3G wireless to the fourth generation or 4G technology: WiMax or LTE.

It's little surprise that WiMax cheerleader Sprint is now exploring its options. The fate of WiMax -- an emerging national wireless broadband network -- is in the very shaky hands of venture partner Clearwire. On Monday, Clearwire replaced its CEO and co-founder Ben Wolff, with former PG&E chief William Morrow.

By moving to LTE, Sprint would join its larger rivals Verizon ( VZ) and AT&T ( T) on the same technology track.

This would be more good news down the road for LTE networking gearmakers including Ericsson ( ERIC), Alcatel-Lucent ( ALU) and Nokia-Siemens.

Verizon has promised to get a jump on the pack by starting its LTE network construction in 2010. And as first reported, Verizon is also in secret discussions with Nokia to design an LTE device that could play advanced media like high-def video. Verizon declined to comment, and a Nokia rep said he wasn't aware of any Verizon device plan.

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