When LightSquared was announced back in the summer of 2010, we were excited at their potential to disrupt the wireless landscape in America. Their business model was simple: build the best LTE network that money can buy and then sell access to it to companies who then resell it to consumers. It’s what Clearwire tried to do with WiMAX, but their network coverage isn’t exactly stellar, and for some odd reason Clearwire tried to enter the consumer space as well. Back to LightSquared, their planned LTE network involved using spectrum that was once used by satellites. This has caused some concern since many thought the decision to use satellite spectrum to power a 4G LTE network could cause interference with GPS. Those concerns, once based on theory, are now grounded in fact as initial testing is showing that LightSquared is indeed blocking GPS signals, and in some cases the signal is completely lost for up to 22 miles away from a LightSquared cell tower.
Think of the ramifications of all of this. LightSquared already shot up a satellite back in November 2010, they’ve got $2.9 billion pumped into the company, much of it from a hedge fund called Harbinger Capital Partners, and over the past few months they’ve announced that they’ve entered into agreements with Cricket, Best Buy, and Cellular South. All of that can potentially go down the drain if these problems aren’t rectified immediately. LightSquared officials say that their service and GPS “will be able to coexist peacefully” and that they’re “committed to identifying and resolving the issues”.
For their sake, we hope their right, because if AT&T is given the green light to swallow T-Mobile, then LightSquared stands as America’s last hope for any competition whatsoever in the mobile broadband arena. There’s also Clearwire, but we’re not too hopeful that they’ll even exist by this time next year.