Lightsquared as a satellite company based in the Washington DC suburbs of Reston VA. Lightsquared was founded in 1988 by Philip Falcone and Sanjiv Ahuja and is responsible for launching satellites MSAT-1 and MSAT-2 in the mid 90’s.
In 2009 it was announced that Lightsquared was going to start offering wholesale 4G/LTE services and widely thought, because of previous relationships, that Sprint/Nextel would become a customer of theirs. In 2011 it was announced that Sprint would indeed partner with LightSquared for their expansion into 4G/LTE.
More after the break
The problem though, was the fact that Lightsquared has no scalable network up yet. Lightsquared has a test network in place that continually has interference with GPS satellites. Lightsquared was built on frequencies that were originally allocated to military GPS. Those frequrencies lay very close to commercial GPS and Lightsqured’s 4G/LTE network is interfering with those consumer GPS units.
Through most of 2011 and throughout all of 2012 to date, Lightsquared has been operating on conditional permission from the FCC. During that time Lightsquared was advised to come up wiht a solution to rid their network of GPS interference.
A significant ruling came yesterday as the NTIA, which governs military and government radio experience, said that Lightsquared would inevitably interfere with other devices including GPS.
“NTIA … has now concluded that there is no practical way to mitigate potential interference at this time,” the FCC said in a statement. “Consequently, the commission will not lift the prohibition on LightSquared.”
The FCC went on to say: “The commission clearly stated from the outset that harmful interference to GPS would not be permitted,”
Back in June it was revealed that Sprint and Lightsquared had entered into a 15 year deal that could be valued as high as $20 billion dollars. Luckily that deal had a contingency plan in case something, like this decision by the NTIA, and FCC, were to arise.
Sprint didn’t stop there though. They also secured a back up plan in a decision to reinvest in Clearwire which is working on it’s own 4G/LTE Advanced network. It’s that network which is currently being built out by Sprint, set to debut mid year.