When LightSquared first announced their plans to build a $7 billion LTE network that they would sell access to via a wholesale businesses model, we were ridiculously excited. That was back in July 2010. Here we are, about to enter 2012, and LightSquared’s plans have changed so drastically that we’re having doubts that they’ll even launch. So what exactly happened during the past 17 months? Back in January of this year Lawrence Strickling, Chief of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, wrote a letter to the FCC saying that LightSquared’s spectrum sits far too close to the spectrum GPS uses and that this is a huge cause for concern. One month later Bill Lynn, former Deputy Secretary of Defense, and General William L. Sheltonhead, United States Air Force, echoed Strickling’s thoughts. Two months later, in April, the FCC told LightSquared that they’re not going to be allowed to turn their network on until testing shows that it isn’t going to interfere with GPS.
Since then there’s been so much testing done on LightSquared’s network that we can’t count the number of articles we’ve written about them. The first round of tests showed that anything within 20 miles of a LightSquared cell tower lost GPS functionality. The next round of tests, with the power of the cell towers turned down, showed significantly less problems, but none the less enough problems that the FCC still wasn’t happy. Then LightSquared said they’ve come up with a “cheap” solution to make existing high precision GPS devices work, but it would cost $400 million to roll out. Now there’s a report that’s due to be released on Wednesday, which has results from testing done in early November, that was leaked to the press. Said report states: “69 of 92, or 75 percent, of receivers tested ‘experienced harmful interference’ at the equivalent of 100 meters (109 yards) from a LightSquared base station.”
“This breach attempts to draw an inaccurate conclusion to negatively influence the future of LightSquared and narrowly serve the business interests of the GPS industry.”
Something tells us we’re going to be covering this story for years to come. Shame, there was so much potential disruption here, but as we stated earlier, we have no confidence in LightSquared getting off the ground.
[Additional Reading: Wikipedia]