LightSquared’s interference problems (pdf) could slow down FCC approval of its new network and create problems for other companies – including its primary financial backer, Harbinger Capital Partners, reports the Wall Street Journal.
On May 16, the joint LightSquared/GPS Working Group filed its preliminary report with the FCC (pdf). Special Committee 159 also released an executive summary of a report, that says GPS aviation receivers would be faced with serious interference.
Harbinger has run into a series of other problems recently, as investors have withdrawn money and regulators have probed certain of the firm’s trades and a loan made by the fund to Mr. Falcone in 2009. The company has said it’s cooperating with regulators.
LightSquared will be using part of the L-band downlink frequencies (1525-1559MHz), while GPS (and GLONASS) operate within the 1559-1610MHz band, explains satellite consultant Tim Farrar. LightSquared’s base stations will be fitted with filters which cut off the signal abruptly at the top of the L-band, so LightSquared’s signals don’t leak into the GPS band.
This will cause interference with older GPS devices, says the GPS study. Lightsquared plan to install 40,000 antennas around the country, but they will likely overpower GPS signals, according to the preliminary report (pdf).
LightSquared has signed deals with Best Buy and Leap Wireless, to offer wholesale wireless Internet service, and had originally planned to launch limited service later this year. LightSquared is now holding talks with AT&T to buy network capacity on AT&T’s LTE network, according to a Bloomberg report.
Sprint Nextel Corp is reportedly close to completing a $2 billion-a-year network sharing agreement with LightSquared, according to Reuters. LightSquared would basically be a tenant on Sprint’s network. In the event that Lightsquared’s terrestrial GPS issues are problematic, Lightsquared may go with Sprint’s 2.6 GHz band for terrestrial access.
How hard would it be to get ICO and TerreStar on-board, too? TerreStar already demoed their GSM/TerreStar satphone using AT&T’s terrestrial cellular network. Why spend another $10B on a nationwide broadband interoperable public service network?
It’s already here. Not that South-facing, geosynchronous satphones are much of a practical substitute in daily use, of course.
LightSquared is testing LTE in Baltimore, Denver, Las Vegas and Phoenix, cities that also have Sprint/Clearwire service. Satellite access makes sense for Sprint which lacks the coverage power of 700 MHz LTE. A Sprint/Lightsquared partnership could enable mobile broadband everywhere. Presumably, Sprint will make an announcement of a move to LTE relatively soon.
The final report from the GPS study is due June 15. That would be good timing for a Sprint announcement. The FCC has mandated that Lightsquared must cover 100 million Americans by the end of 2012, 145 million by the end of 2013, and 250 million by the end of 2015.
An affiliation with Sprint may be the best way to do it.
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