LightSquared inks LTE device deals with Nokia, Qualcomm

LightSquared gave its nascent wholesale LTE network a shot in the arm via new device deals with Nokia (NYSE:NOK), Qualcomm (NASDAQ:QCOM) and other companies. And though LightSquared, which is backed by private equity firm Harbinger Capital Partners, did not announce any specific devices, the company hopes the agreements will bolster confidence in its ambitious plans.

LightSquared said Qualcomm will provide a chipset that supports its L-band 1.6 GHz LTE spectrum. The chip, the MDM9600, also will support satellite services via an air interface technology called Enhanced Geostationary Air Link, or EGAL. LightSquared has said its wholesale LTE network will allow for terrestrial-only, satellite-only or integrated satellite-terrestrial services (via the terrestrial and MSS spectrum Harbinger scored through a merger in March with satellite operator SkyTerra).

LightSquared also said it will work with Nokia on branded, data-centric devices, which are to be commercially available in the third quarter of 2011--when LightSquared expects to commercially launch its network. Martin Harriman, LightSquared's executive vice president of ecosystem development and satellite business, told FierceWireless the company is conducting feasibility testing with Nokia on dual-mode devices, which could range from smartphones to tablets. However, he emphasized that nothing has been decided yet.

"It's about deciding what we think is best for us," he said. "At the moment, it's wide open."

LightSquared also tapped AnyData and BandRich to provide embedded modules, USB data modems and other devices to launch during the second half of 2011.

AnyData, which operates under a white-label scenario, said it will offer its planned devices to LightSquared's wholesale customers. Meaning, the gadgets won't become commercially available until LightSquared customers launch service. Charles Napier, senior vice president of strategic alliances at AnyData, told FierceWireless the company has been in negotiations with possible customers for its planned LightSquared devices, though he declined to provide details.

Interestingly, AnyData's devices for LightSquared will operate on the carrier's L-band satellite and terrestrial LTE network, as well as on existing cellular networks that utilize "either EVDO Rev. A, HSPA/HSUPA/HSDPA, as well as CDMA 1X and GSM/GPRS/EDGE technologies." Napier said the devices will contain support both the CDMA family of technologies and the GSM family of technologies, and that customers will be able to activate either set of technologies so that the products will be able to work on LightSquared's LTE network and then fall back to a 3G network. However, due to technical limitations, the devices will only be able to support one family of 3G technologies, either CDMA or GSM, and not both simultaneously.

"It really is a game changer, in terms of having a wireless technology that can work anywhere, on any network," Napier said.

Napier said AnyData's devices for LightSquared's network will use Qualcomm's 9600 series chips. He declined to provide pricing details for the gadgets, or discuss the end-user speeds they could support.

Additionally, LightSquared said its board and the board of Nokia Siemens Networks recently approved the companies' eight-year, $7 billion deal for Nokia Siemens to design and build LightSquared's LTE network. LightSquared said the two companies have started site acquisitions and development of LTE base station equipment. Tom Surface, LightSquared's director of marketing and communications, told FierceWireless at the PCIA 2010 Wireless Infrastructure show in Hollywood, Fla., that the company has locked down two wholesale partners and is in "advanced negotiations" with 11 others.

LightSquared plans initial LTE trials in Baltimore, Denver, Las Vegas and Phoenix. LightSquared, which has access to a total of 59 MHz of spectrum, has said its network will consist of around 40,000 cellular base stations covering 92 percent of the U.S. population by 2015. LightSquared can access 40 MHz of L-band spectrum, though the company will not have access to the full 40 MHz of spectrum until it completes Phase 2 of an agreement with satellite firm Inmarsat. That process will take 30 months to complete.    

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Mike Dano contributed to this report.