It’s been a week now since the FCC finally downed LightSquared’s plans to build a terrestrial LTE network in the US, by suspending its waiver that permitted the building of such a network using satellite spectrum.
As had long been feared, the objections of the GPS industry proved too much for the FCC to stomach, and it took the recommendations of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) at face value. These said that based on the report from the executive committee for Space-based Positioning Navigation & Timing (PNT), LightSquared’s terrestrial network would significantly interfere with GPS devices, from in-car dash devices to aircraft systems.
As Jeff Carlisle, LightSquared’s executive vice president for Regulatory Affairs and Public Policy observed, GPS has become, “too big to fail”. The technical truth of the matter is that it is the GPS devices that leak into LightSquared licensed spectrum, but in the final reality that mattered not a jot. GPS has got their first, and the fact that it had been allowed to be lazy and messy with its technical implementations when there was no neighbours to worry about was a moot point.
LightSquared high profile hedge-fund backed Philip Falcone has pumped billions into the LightSquared terrestrial network, which now seems to have been a bad move. If you’re in any danger of feeling sorry for Falcone though, reading this Vanity Fair profile should do the trick and put that to rest, but it is more than permissible to feel sorry for Joe Public. LightSquared would certainly have given US consumers more choice for mobile broadband that the incumbents such as AT&T and Verzion. With the size of the US market it’s likely that it would have benefitted the market worldwide due to economies of scale. As it stands, it’s not going to happen, and that’s a shame.
It’s also pretty bad news for the 30 or so customers that had signed up to use its network. Not least is struggling vendor Nokia Siemens Networks. The joint venture was already wobbling, amidst loss of support from its parents companies and a ever more competitive market. As such, the loss of a $7 billion dollar deal to build out LightSquared’s network of base stations would have to be a massive setback .
Significantly, shares from Clearwire, Sprint’s WiMAX partner that is now building out an LTE network, were up 5 per cent on the news off the FCC judgement. Seems LightSquared’s situation isn’t bad news for everyone then.