Where it's based: New York
When it was founded: 2001
Why it's Fierce: It's not often a private-equity firm wins a Fierce 15 award. They're usually the ones funding the "fierce" companies we write about. But we felt Harbinger Capital Partners was a fitting Fierce 15 candidate when earlier this year it revealed plans to deploy a nationwide LTE network after getting approval from the FCC to merge with MSS player SkyTerra. Harbinger is creating a new corporation to acquire SkyTerra, and plans to use the firm's MSS spectrum, Ancillary Terrestrial Component spectrum and terrestrial-only spectrum along with spectrum hosting and pooling agreements to quickly roll out a network that will cover all major U.S. markets by the end of the second quarter in 2013.
It's a daunting endeavor to compete with AT&T Mobility and Verizon Wireless. It's even more daunting to create a wholesale mobile network that will be open to any company that wants to offer mobile broadband services. Clearwire is proving that a successful wholesale model can work, but the company had financial commitment from heavyweights Sprint Nextel, Comcast and Time Warner Cable prior to launch. Harbinger reportedly is in discussions with T-Mobile USA for a possible partnership, but no deal has been finalized.
Interestingly, Harbinger managed to get the FCC to write in a stipulation on the spectrum that prevents traffic from the largest and second largest wireless operators--AT&T and Verizon--to account for more than 25 percent of the total traffic on the planned network. Naturally, AT&T and Verizon are protesting this requirement.
Harbinger has controlling access to 13 megahertz of SkyTerra's spectrum, but could also bring Terrestar Networks in the fold since it owns a stake in that satellite company. In addition, Harbinger said it has access to quite a bit of spectrum through a cooperation agreement with Inmarsat and associated waivers of the commission's ATC rules.
Former Orange chief executive Sanjiv Ahuja has been tapped to lead the LTE buildout.
What's next: Harbinger will reportedly have to raise at least $1 billion to $2 billion in order to fund its network buildout. Therefore, expect the company to work on racking up powerful investors who can make its vision a reality.