Report: LightSquared in talks with Sprint on network sharing deal

LightSquared is holding negotiations with Sprint Nextel (NYSE:S) to lease Sprint's cell sites and network equipment in a bid to build out its wholesale LTE network faster, according to a Bloomberg article.

The report, which cited three unnamed sources familiar with the matter, said that a deal with Sprint could allow LightSquared to build out its network faster and more cheaply, and that Sprint's network modernization project will provide extra network capacity that LightSquared can use.

A Sprint spokeswoman declined to comment and a LightSquared spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Last week, LightSquared CMO Frank Boulben told FierceWireless that the company has signed wholesale deals with two U.S. operators. According to the Bloomberg report, LightSquared also has inked deals with a national retailer, a device manufacturer and a website.

Sprint has selected Alcatel-Lucent (NASDAQ:ALU), Ericsson (NASDAQ:ERIC) and Samsung for its network modernization project, which will cost $4 billion to $5 billion. The project is expected to take three to five years to complete and includes the deployment of new multi-mode base stations, which could allow Sprint to deploy LTE.

During Sprint's fourth-quarter earnings conference call, Sprint CEO Dan Hesse said laboratory testing for the new base stations will be conducted in the first quarter and that Sprint expects field integration to take place in the second quarter. He also added that Sprint will deploy the new technology in its eight largest metro areas in "the August time frame." Hesse said that if Clearwire (NASDAQ:CLWR) uses Sprint's modernized network, which allows it to deploy LTE, it could result in significant cost savings for both companies.

LightSquared, which just secured a $586 million loan from from UBS AG and JPMorgan Chase & Co., has an aggressive buildout 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 Siemens Networks is designing and building the network. Nokia (NYSE:NOK), AnyData and Qualcomm (NASDAQ:QCOM) are working on devices.

For more:
- see this Bloomberg article

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