LightSquared, the wireless operator run by a hedge fund manager who owns spectrum that’s dangerously close to that of GPS, is in a bit of pickle. Testing was done earlier this summer to see if their planned 4G LTE network would interfere with GPS signals, and the results were downright shocking. GPS reception was knocked out by as much as 22 miles away from a LightSquared cell tower. In order to resolve the issue, LightSquared said they’d simply use spectrum that’s farther away from the bands used by GPS, and that they’ll reduce the power output of their towers. FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said yesterday during a meeting that “the facts and engineering” of LightSquared’s proposed network need to be ironed out before they get approval to turn their network on. Earlier he said: “We’re not going to do anything that creates problems for GPS safety and service as we explore technical solutions that will both protect GPS and allow a new service to launch.”
We really, really, REALLY hope that LightSquared resolves these problems, because come Spring 2012 the American wireless market is going to be dominated by just two wireless companies: AT&T and Verizon. Sprint doesn’t stand a chance. Clearwire, which Sprint owns a majority stake in, is a ticking time bomb that just loses money quarter after quarter. With LightSquared being a third player, pricing could have been kept in check for years to come, but it’s increasingly looking like they’ll never even make it out of the starting gate.
Expect to hear more about the LightSquared saga on the 15th of this month, the deadline for comments to the FCC about the modified LightSquared deployment plan. No timetable has been given by the FCC as to when they’ll actually come to a decision about LightSquared’s fate, which makes for some serious tension.