LightSquared, who in an earlier article I jokingly called an idea scribbled on the back of a bar napkin, plans on taking on every operator in America by offering an LTE network that will use the MVNO business model, and according to documents seen by Bloomberg that plan will begin executing in 9 markets in 2011. Sanjiv Ahuja, CEO of LightSquared, who used to run Orange Europe for 3 years, confirms some of what the leaked documents say, but notes the information is over 6 months old and a bit out of date.
By the end of this year LightSquared hopes to have 300 cell towers up. That’s hardly a major achievement. Then during 2011 they want to light up an additional 5,000. Now we’re talking. And if things go to plan then in 2012 the company will put up yet another 13,000 cell towers, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves here. LightSquared will launch in 9 markets next year, and they’re all in the midwest. Major markets like New York and Los Angeles will not see LightSquared until 2012. By then Verizon’s LTE network will be up, so will AT&T’s.
That being said, these guys have balls. Harbinger Capital Partners, the hedge fund that’s launching this LTE network, has already committed to an 8 year contract with Nokia Siemens Networks worth around $7 billion and have said they plan on deploying roughly 40,000 cell sites. They’re tired of the pricing models, lack of innovation, and overall slow pace of change of the American wireless market, and if they do what they say they’re going to do, then we’re going to see a more European style approach to offering wireless services over in the land of the brave.
Note that LightSquared isn’t going to be an operator like Verizon or AT&T is today. They’re going to be nothing more than pipes, albeit wireless pipes, selling their services to those who then resell it to you, the end user. The FCC has already said that they’re not allowed to do business with AT&T and Verizon unless they get approval from the government first, and yes, the both of them complained, so I’m about as eager as anyone to see if this network really does go live.
Or if it just stays a scribbling on a bar napkin.