LightSquared hires advisers to help overcome GPS industry concerns

LightSquared has hired a wireless consultancy and other advisers and is angling to work with the GPS industry to resolve any concerns GPS device makers have over interference with LightSquared's spectrum, according to an FCC filing.

On June 24, LightSquared CEO Doug Smith and former FCC Chairman Reed Hundt, who has been representing LightSquared since at least December 2014, met with Philip Verveer, counselor to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler.

Smith noted at the meeting that smartphones already have an engineering solution to ensure that "they can offer GPS and wireless broadband in the presence of the LightSquared signal" and also noted that "encouraging private investment in the 1500-1700 MHz band for wireless broadband furthers the goals of this Administration and Chairman Wheeler since that investment will make wireless broadband more affordable, will create new jobs, and will help make America the world leader in not just 4G but also 5G."

LightSquared is in the process of emerging from bankruptcy and is asking the FCC to let it use its spectrum. The company has said it will use the airwaves for public and private users, including the transport and energy industries, as well as first responders and federal government agencies.

"However, the GPS industry to date has expressed concern that receivers on the devices they make and sell are not designed in a way that will keep smartphone signals in this midband from overloading those receivers," the company said in its filing. "Mr. Smith emphasized that he is certain LightSquared and the major GPS device firms can reach a reasonable business compromise if they were so motivated."

To get over that hump, LightSquared has hired Dennis Roberson & Associates as well as various unnamed consultants "to help find a compromise that maximizes value for both GPS services and wireless broadband service." 

Roberson & Associates describes itself as a "technology and management consulting company serving government and commercial customers that provides services in the areas of RF spectrum management, RF measurements and analysis, strategy development, and technology management." The organization was founded in 2008 and it says its associates and members have corporate and academic backgrounds from Motorola, ARRIS, Bell Labs (AT&T, Bellcore, Telcordia, Lucent, Alcatel-Lucent), Cisco, Google, IBM, IITRI (now Alion),ITW, NCR, Nokia, S&C Electric, independent consulting firms and the Illinois Institute of Technology. 

LightSquared is asking the FCC to help it resolve disputes with the GPS industry. LightSquared wants three of the biggest GPS firms--Deere, Garmin, and Trimble--to, in confidence, provide it "information regarding the receiver designs that concern them specifically, information about antenna and software coding issues." The company also wants the three GPS firms to explain to LightSquared, "in confidence, what economic issues concern them since we believe there are business solutions and compromises that would enable this vital midband spectrum to be utilized to everyone's satisfaction." Finally, LightSquared wants to meet in person with "decision-making personnel from the three firms to discuss in-depth the entire range of issues between the company and the GPS industry, including resolution of the litigation."

LightSquared initially launched in 2010 with the goal of building a nationwide wireless LTE network that other companies could use in order to offer their own services to customers. The company signed up around 40 wholesale customers to the plan. However, LightSquared entered bankruptcy protection in May 2012 after the FCC revoked its conditional license to operate because of unresolved concerns that LightSquared's planned LTE-based network in the L-band would interfere with GPS receivers. LightSquared vigorously contested that move.

To mitigate the interference concerns, LightSquared in the fall of 2012 submitted to the FCC a request to combine the 5 MHz it uses for satellite service at 1670-1675 MHz with frequencies in the 1675-1680 MHz band, currently used by National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) weather balloons. The company would share the NOAA spectrum rather than gain exclusive rights to it. LightSquared would then agree not to deploy a terrestrial network in the 1545-1555 MHz downlink part of the L Band.

In an April filing, LightSquared noted that several requests to avoid interference with GPS receivers by using different slices of LightSquared's spectrum remain pending at the FCC.

LightSquared has said it has access to $1.25 billion in working capital and will use the funds to "make full use of its spectrum to provide existing and innovative services available to the public." Hundt is expected to be on the board of the new LightSquared, as is former Verizon Communications (NYSE: VZ) CEO Ivan Seidenberg. 

For more:
- see this FCC filing

Related articles:
Verizon's former CEO and a former FCC chairman push LightSquared's case directly to FCC's Wheeler
LightSquared could target first responders, transport and energy industries with new service
LightSquared to exit bankruptcy after nearly 3 years
Dish's Ergen throws support behind new LightSquared bankruptcy plan from Cerberus, Solus
Dish's Ergen would get control of LightSquared in latest restructuring deal