FCC to revoke LightSquared conditional approval

15 February 2012 |


The FCC has said that it will revoke the conditional approval it gave to LightSquared, which would have allowed the business to use repurposed satellite spectrum for its nationwide LTE network.

LightSquared’s plans were always subject to a conditional waver order, which prohibited the company from beginning commercial operations unless spectrum interference issues were resolved.

Over the last year, the GPS industry – gathered into ‘The Coalition to Save Our GPS’ campaign – has waged a strong battle to reject LightSquared’s plans, claiming that its use of the satellite L-band would cause significant interference in navigation and location devices.

The FCC’s move to “suspend indefinitely” its waver marks a significant reversal in its position towards LightSquared. There is a tone of regret in the FCC’s decision, as it acknowledges that LightSquared’s proposal “offered the potential to unleash new spectrum for mobile broadband and enhance competition”.

However the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), the federal agency that coordinates spectrum use for military and other government entities, had reported to the FCC that “there is no practical way to mitigate potential interference at this time”.

Its findings forced the FCC to act upon its waver, as it set out in its statement: “The commission clearly stated from the outset that harmful interference to GPS would not be permitted.”

Although there will now be a public comment period on the FCC’s conclusions, the decision leaves LightSquared with few options.

It has stated that it “profoundly disagrees” with the recommendations, and rejects both the “severely flawed testing process” and the basis upon which these decisions were taken. LightSquared was bullish in its immediate response to the news, stating: “LightSquared recognises that this is just one step in the process, and it remains committed to working toward a resolution.”

There is, however, widespread speculation in the market that LightSquared might file for bankruptcy or elect to sue.

While the future for LightSquared looks bleak, the other major players in the US mobile industry must be assessing the potential to consolidate their position even further.