Back in July 2010 a company we never heard of called LightSquared announced that they would spend $7 billion to build a wholesale 4G LTE network covering the United States and that it would be up and running by the end of 2011. So what the fuck happened? First, LightSquared had to get permission to use the spectrum they own to build a terrestrial network because said spectrum was originally classified for use in a satellite based network. Second, whereas LightSquared’s initial plan was to get Nokia Siemens Networks to build their network, they instead decided to partner with Sprint and use the cell towers that they already had deployed. Third, several government entities complained to the FCC that LightSquared’s network would pose some serious interference issues with GPS technology. There’s certainly more to this 20 month drama, but that’s pretty much all you need to know. Anyway, Sprint has been really patient with LightSquared, saying they’ll wait until the government gives them the green light to turn on their network, but that patience is no longer there. Sources who have spoken to Bloomberg say Sprint is going to breakup with LightSquared next week. And that’s the end of that.
To those of us who were actually looking forward to a competitor joining the market, this is certainly terrible news, but there’s always Dish Network. The budget satellite TV company sits on 40 MHz of spectrum that they want to use to build an LTE-Advanced network, but just as with LightSquared, that spectrum needs to be approved for terrestrial use. The FCC recently said it needs time to evaluate whether or not they’ll give Dish the go ahead.
But hey, it’s not all doom and gloom. Data pricing is improving, albeit at a snail’s pace, but it’s better than nothing, right? And by the end of 2013 practically all of America will be covered by Verizon’s 4G LTE, which is downright amazing.