LightSquared plans to launch its wholesale LTE network in as many as nine U.S. markets in 2011, reports Fierce Wireless, and could expand that list to 20 markets in 2012, according to company documents unearthed by Bloomberg.
The documents show the company will offer 4G service largely in the middle of the country first and then expand to the coasts, says Bloomberg.
LightSquared is a satellite phone company that plans to reuse its 2 GHz (MSS) frequencies terrestrially, on cell towers. It plans to launch in Chicago, Dallas and Minneapolis in 2011, and could expand to Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco in 2012, according to the documents.
The company expects to add 300 base stations this year, 5,000 by the end of 2011, and around 13,000 base stations in 11 more metropolitan areas in 2012. The company has inked a $7 billion deal with Nokia Siemens Networks, which is designing and building the network.
LightSquared CEO Sanjiv Ahuja confirmed to Bloomberg that the documents are authentic, but said some details have been changed. However, Ahuja said LightSquared is on track to begin constructing its network in December.
LightSquared hopes to compete with Clearwire and Verizon for 4G services in the United States. Clearwire now offers 4G service to roughly 56 million people, and plans to serve over 100 million by year’s end. By the end of 2010, Clearwire will expand to Boston, New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles.
Meanwhile, Verizon’s is expected to turn on their initial LTE service sometime this November. “Verizon’s LTE service will be in 25 to 30 markets covering roughly 100 million people by year’s end,” said Tony Melone, senior vice president and chief technical officer at Verizon Wireless.
The three companies approach 4G differently. Clearwire has more 4G spectrum than all the U.S. cellular operators combined – some 120 MHz in big cities. Clearwire’s 2.6 GHz band doesn’t travel as well as the 700 MHz band that Verizon is using. Verizon will use fewer cell towers to cover more people on less spectrum. Verizon’s LTE service is therefore likely to be more ubiquitous, but slower and more expensive than Clearwire’s WiMAX service.
Geosynch satphone providers include:
- TerreStar’s satphone service: Now operational. It features dual-band operation, working with AT&T’s cellular network for ubiquitous service throughout North America. Uses 20 MHz in the MSS Band: (1.7/2.1 GHZ). Now operational with a single satellite, but service has not begun commercially. Dual-band phones can use AT&T’s cellular service and the MSS band using ATC. The 18 meter Harris antenna focuses 2 GHz spotbeams on the United States and Canada in order to provide enough signal strength.
- Skyterra satphone service: Same deal but operates in the lower “L Band” (1.5/1.6 GHz). May be available later this year, after their satellite launches. SkyTerra1 and SkyTerra2, based on the Boeing 702 design, are scheduled for launch during 2010. It will combine both terrestrial 700 MHz Public Safety networks and satellites.
- Inmarsat: Uses mobile terminals for Internet access but does not (generally) provide voice service from handheld phones. Operates in the “L Band” (1.5/1.6 GHz).
- Thuraya: Covers the middle East and adjoining areas. A 12 x 16 meter reflector, 128 element L-band antenna supports up to 200 separate spot beams.
- ICO: Provides MSS coverage over the United States with a huge spotbeam antenna. The planned mobile multimedia service has not yet been offered even though the satellite has been operational for nearly two years.
FCC rulemaking permits Mobile Satellite Service (MSS) licensees in the 2 GHz (1990-2025 MHz and 2165-2200 MHz) bands (where ICO and Terrastar operate), the L-band (1525-1544 MHz/1545-1559 MHz) and 1626.5-1645.5 MHz/1646.5-1660.5 MHz) bands (where Inmarsat and Skyterra operate), and the “Big LEO” (1610-1626.5 MHz and 2483.5-2500 MHz) bands (where Globalstar and Iridium operate).
Harbinger Capital Partners has dropped Clearwire from its stock portfolio and cut its stock holdings in Sprint Nextel, according to a regulatory filing.
LightSquared (which now owns Skyterra and most of TerraStar), has one big problem. They need a partner with cell towers who wants to play – someone like T-Mobile.
Perhaps an Asian or European cellular company would work – or a Russian oil company. Small, independent ISPs, delivering broadband wireless to rural communities might be part of the mix, as well as the remaining independent cellular operators like MetroPCS and Cricket Wireless.
Digital Bridge, Open Range and Utopian Wireless have all won broadband infrastructure grants in recent years, notes Forbes.
- Utopian Wireless, based in Bethesda, Maryland, received nearly $12 million for 14 projects in eight states.
- Open Range secured $374 million to deploy Wireless Broadband in 546 Rural Communities, with a $267 million loan from Agriculture’s RUS Program.
- Digital Bridge won a $4.3 million grant from the NTIA to deploy WiMAX services in three counties in Idaho.
LightSquared has already struck a deal to lease some of its 1.4 GHz spectrum to Airspan Networks for use with utility applications.
Juniper Research is forecasting 300 million global LTE subscribers by 2015, compared with 500,000 expected by the the end of this year. ABI figures 4G subscribers will total 150 million by 4Q-2014, with some 1 billion people covered by mobile WiMAX globally in 2012.
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