Bloomberg News

LightSquared to Use Alternate Airwaves as GPS Jamming Fix

June 20, 2011

(Updates with Sprint agreement in penultimate paragraph.)

June 20 (Bloomberg) -- Billionaire Philip Falcone’s LightSquared Inc. wireless venture said it will use a different set of airwaves for its service than originally planned to help prevent interference with U.S. global positioning-systems.

LightSquared will offer its service on a block of airwaves, known as spectrum, that is controlled by satellite company Inmarsat Plc when it introduces service early next year, Chief Executive Officer Sanjiv Ahuja said in an interview.

LightSquared has been buffeted by opposition from the U.S. military, and device- and farm-equipment makers that say the startup carrier’s plan to offer wireless service over 40,000 base stations risks jamming GPS receivers. The FCC had given LightSquared until July 1 to propose solutions.

“This should resolve interference challenges for 99.5 percent of GPS receivers in this country,” said Ahuja. “We believe this clears the path for us to move forward with a coast-to-coast broadband network launch.”

Ahuja said the switch to Inmarsat’s spectrum will limit GPS interference for all but a limited number of users, such as farm equipment manufacturers. LightSquared also plans to reduce the power of its transmitters by more than 50 percent.

LightSquared, backed by Falcone’s Harbinger Capital Partners hedge fund, said it will submit a formal proposal to the Federal Communications Commission by the end of the month. The plan requires FCC approval, Ahuja said.

Neil Grace, an FCC spokesman in Washington, declined in an e-mail to comment.

GPS Resolutions?

Ahuja said the company will continue working to resolve the GPS issues on its existing spectrum and deploy it at a later time. He declined to say how much LightSquared will pay London- based Inmarsat for use of its airwaves, which it had planned to use in two to three years to supplement its current spectrum holdings.

LightSquared, based in Reston, Virginia, agreed last year to FCC conditions that it offer service to as many as 100 million Americans by the end of next year and 260 million by 2016. The company remains on schedule to introduce commercial service by 2012, said Ahuja.

On June 17, Harbinger told investors it had reached a 15- year agreement with Sprint Nextel Corp. on a plan to share network equipment and building costs, according to a letter obtained by Bloomberg.

Ahuja declined to comment on the letter.

--With assistance from Todd Shields in Washington. Editors: Peter Elstrom, Niamh Ring, Cecile Daurat

To contact the reporter on this story: Greg Bensinger in New York at gbensinger1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Peter Elstrom at pelstrom@bloomberg.net


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