LightSquared continues swinging at the FCC, saying its effort to keep LightSquared from operating its planned LTE network in satellite spectrum is "wholly inconsistent" with other FCC proceedings that will likely allow Dish Network to operate in similar spectrum.
The FCC's voted in February to revoke conditional permission for LightSquared to build its planned wholesale LTE network due to concerns about GPS interference. The company stopped short of terming the agency's move illegal but described it as "legally unprecedented" and called on the agency to "implement a resolution that allows LightSquared's network to go forward and furthers the public interest."
"The FCC's response in this matter is wholly incongruous and disproportionate," said Jeffrey Carlisle, LightSquared's executive vice president for regulatory affairs and public policy. He said the commission is turning its back on LightSquared and its multibillion-dollar investment in wireless broadband "after the commission mandated that the company deploy its network on an accelerated timeframe."
LightSquared requires an FCC waiver to operate its planned terrestrial LTE network in L-band satellite spectrum. Similarly, pay-TV company Dish Network wants an FCC waiver to use S-band satellite spectrum for a terrestrial LTE-Advanced network. However, unlike LightSquared's situation, Dish's spectrum has not been shown to have GPS interference problems.
On March 21, the FCC voted 3-0 to issue a notice of proposed rulemaking exploring how the S-band of MSS spectrum, which the FCC has renamed "AWS-4," should be designed so that the satellite spectrum can be repurposed for terrestrial use. Additionally, the FCC will look at repurposing the 1695-1710 MHz band for commercial mobile broadband, which analysts said could mean Dish's spectrum holdings might get shifted.
Clearly referencing Dish and the NPRM, LightSquared proposed in its most recent FCC filing that the National Telecommunications and Information Administration work to develop "spectrum solutions to enable LightSquared to deploy its broadband wireless services in alternative spectrum--the very solution proposed by the commission last week to address ‘interference' concerns related to another MSS/ATC licensee that (unlike LightSquared) had not already invested billions of dollars in its terrestrial network pursuant to a direct commission order."
NTIA's findings that LightSquared's network would cause harmful interference to GPS transmissions are what drove the FCC to pull LightSquared's conditional waiver.
LightSquared reaffirmed its intent to battle the FCC and "continuing to pursue its rights to use its spectrum as repeatedly approved by the FCC."
Yet the company is quickly running out of time and money. Several of its customers, such as Leap Wireless and startup FreedomPop, have signed with rival wholesale network operator Clearwire and partner Sprint recently ended the network-hosting agreement it had with LightSquared.
Although Sprint refunded $65 million in prepaid fees to LightSquared, which can certainly help fund the company's ongoing legal battles, the startup's biggest champion is struggling. LightSquared booster Philip Falcone saw his Harbinger Capital Management hedge fund lose 26.7 percent of its portfolio value during the first two months of 2012 over concerns about its investment in LightSquared. That followed a 47 percent slide in the fund during 2011 because the LightSquared investment had to be revalued.
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