LightSquared presses FCC to let it launch LTE service

Wholesale LTE provider LightSquared asked the FCC to declare that GPS device makers are at fault for interference caused between LightSquared's L-band spectrum and GPS receivers, and that LightSquared, a licensed spectrum holder, should be allowed to launch commercial service as quickly as possible.

LightSquared has been waiting for FCC approval to launch commercial terrestrial service, but the commission has said it will not allow LightSquared to operate until it certifies that interference concerns have been addressed. The filing from LightSquared comes days after initial government tests showed that LightSquared's lower spectrum does not interfere with cell phones but, according to a statement released by the Department of Defense and Department of Transportation, does cause interference to "the majority of other tested general purpose GPS receivers."

LightSquared is approaching a year-end deadline to get FCC approval as required in its network-sharing agreement with Sprint Nextel (NYSE:S), which was inked in July.

"The one inescapable conclusion from two rounds of independent testing is that the incompatibility problem is not caused by LightSquared's network," Jeff Carlisle, LightSquared's executive vice president for regulatory affairs and public policy, said in a statement. "It is clear that GPS devices are purposefully designed to look into LightSquared's licensed spectrum, and given this evidence, we believe decision-makers should consider LightSquared's legal rights as the licensee."

FCC representatives did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The National Telecommunications and Information Administration is still conducting GPS interference tests related to LightSquared's network, and the final results are not expected for several more weeks.

LightSquared said in its filing that the record shows that "unlicensed commercial GPS receivers simply are not entitled to interference protection from LightSquared's licensed operations in the MSS band. Moreover, the commercial GPS industry is mistaken that LightSquared must bear the financial burden resulting from the failure of the commercial GPS industry, for almost a decade, to account for the deployment of LightSquared's network in the design and manufacture of commercial GPS receivers."

In addition to its desire to get its service launched, LightSquared's deal with Sprint is contingent upon it getting FCC approval to operate. When the deal was announced, Sprint said it had the right to terminate the deal if certain conditions are not met by year-end. If there is a material breach of the contract, or if LightSquared faces insolvency, Sprint holds a second lien on LightSquared's spectrum assets.

However, Sprint seemed to indicate it is willing to push back its timeline. "We have realigned our deployment timeline to coincide with potential FCC actions. Until 1.6 (GHz) spectrum is approved for use, both companies believe it is prudent to pull back on expenses and stop new deployment design and implementation to ensure the Network Vision project remains on schedule," Sprint spokesman Scott Sloat told FierceWireless.  "The deal between the parties remains intact and there is no impact to the Network Vision deployment schedule.  Sprint supports LightSquared's business plans and efforts to resolve potential interference issues expediently. That said, the agreement includes protections for Sprint relating to LightSquared's requirement to receive FCC approvals."

For its part, the GPS industry said LightSquared's latest filing "simply recycles the litany of inaccurate and self-serving claims that LightSquared has made in its ongoing effort to deny its obligation to avoid harmful interference to millions of government and private GPS users." In a statement, Jim Kirkland, vice president and general counsel of Trimble, a founding member of the Coalition to Save Our GPS, said the filing "entirely ignores the critical points relevant to its proposal to change the use of the mobile satellite band."

For more:
- see this LightSquared release
- see this LightSquared filing
- see this WSJ article (sub. req.)
- see this Coalition to Save Our GPS release

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