The Federal Communications Commission will “indefinitely suspend” the company’s license to use its satellite spetrum to build a new Long Term Evolution fourth generation mobile network because it would interfere with GPS systems operating on neighboring radio bands.
That essentially means the $3 billion gamble to re-purpose satellite spectrum to build a terrestrial Long Term Evolution network is lost.
Though there is an appeals process, the odds of reversing the decision are minimal, most observers likely would guess.
The FCC decision came after the National Telecommunications and Information Administration concluded there was no feasible way for LightSquared to avoid interfering with the GPS frequencies and services.
An advisory group to NTIA in January 2012 had released the results of extensive testing it said showed that LightSquared “would cause harmful interference to many GPS receivers,” and further testing would not be fruitful.
At the time that report was issued, there were indications the NTIA tests would confirm the findings.
Investor Philip Falcone has been working since at least 2005 to gain authority to build the network. Among the ramifications for AT&T and Verizon Wireless are the elimination of a potentially troublesome wholesale provider of LTE services.
Dozens of firms that had planned to launch LTE services now will have to find some other wholesale supplier, or abandon their own business plans. Sprint had planned to provide facilities to LightSquared, and would have gained additional use of LTE spectrum.
Sprint now will lose some amount of revenue from LightSquared. Clearwire and Sprint might be winners, depending on how fast they can ge their own LTE networks up and operating.
Also, Dish Network might ultimately hope to displace some of the market role LightSquared hoped to create, though Dish up to this point has emphasized its intention to create a retail operation of its own if Dish Network’s petition to the FCC, also asking for rights to re-purpose satellite spectrum to create an LTE mobile network.
The death knell came in the form of a letter sent by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), which declared the interference to be unavoidable.
“Based on NTIA’s independent evaluation of the testing and analysis performed over the last several months, we conclude that LightSquared’s proposed mobile broadband network will impact GPS services and that there is no practical way to mitigate the potential interference at this time,” the letter said.
In principle, an appeal is possible, but most observers would doubt such an appeal would be successful. The testing conducted so far, which LightSquared has objected to, has shown significant levels of interference to GPS receivers.
As a rule, in such matters, the new applicant has the burden of proof where it comes to avoiding interference with other licensed users of spectrum that already are in operation. That would seem to be the case here.