LightSquared inks wholesale LTE deal with Leap Wireless

ORLANDO, Fla.--LightSquared signed a long-term LTE roaming deal with Cricket provider Leap Wireless (NASDAQ:LEAP), notching its first major wireless operator wholesale partner shortly after it announced a similar deal with Open Range Communications.

The two companies said the deal will allow Leap to supplement LTE coverage it plans to deploy with roaming on LightSquared's network. The companies did not specify when Leap will begin using LightSquared's network, which is scheduled to launch sometime in the third quarter. A LightSquared spokeswoman said that Leap will start using the company's network as soon as possible.

The deal with Leap is notable in light of the fact that Leap's flat-rate rival MetroPCS (NYSE:PCS), which launched LTE service last year, has indicated interest in a partnership with LightSquared. Leap said in February it plans to launch its first LTE trial market later this year.

LightSquared CEO Sanjiv Ahuja is scheduled to deliver a keynote presentation in Orlando, Wednesday during the CTIA Wireless 2011 trade show, and is expected to outline more details about the company's plans.

LightSquared, which secured a $586 million loan last month from UBS AG and JPMorgan, has an aggressive build-out schedule. The company is conducting LTE trials in Baltimore, Denver, Las Vegas and Phoenix, with commercial launches planned by the third quarter of this year. Nokia (NYSE:NOK), AnyData and Qualcomm (NASDAQ:QCOM) are working on devices. 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.

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