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LightSquared Customers Plead with FCC

Fri, 02/10/2012 - 6:41am
Maisie Ramsay

This story has been updated to include information about additional LightSquared customers who sent letters of support to the FCC.

LightSquared has been signing up customers for its planned wholesale LTE network from the beginning despite the fact that it didn't have FCC clearance to launch the service, forging contracts with more than 30 companies.

Now, some of those companies are asking the FCC to let LightSquared light up its network amid increased uncertainty over whether the service will ever get the green light.

LightSquared's network has been shown to have a widespread impact on GPS receivers, and the FCC has said it will not allow the service to go live until the interference issue is addressed.

Six companies including PowerNet Global Communications, AirTouch Communications and Karma Mobility sent separate letters to the FCC this week petitioning the agency to clear LightSquared for launch. Hometown Telecom and SI Wireless, two other LightSquared customera, made their own pleas last week.

"LightSquared's wholesale-only model will allow LightSquared's partners to overcome the high barriers to market entry—including potentially prohibitive network deployment and roaming costs, as well as spectrum scarcity—that could otherwise unduly raise their operating costs, or preclude them from operating altogether," SI Wireless CEO Terry Addington wrote in a Feb.2 letter to the agency. "SIW has immediate interest in making use of LightSquared's wholesale services."

SI Wireless announced last spring it planned to use LightSquared's network to provide mobile broadband service to its customers in rural parts of Illinois, Kentucky and Tennessee, where it currently offers CDMA/EVDO coverage. As with LightSquared's other customers, those plans are on hold indefinitely.

PowerNet said that without LightSquared's wholesale service, it "will not be afforded the opportunity to enter the wireless marketplace or allow allow us to offer affordable advanced wireless broadband service to our current market, rural markets or under served markets."

AirTouch also planned to use LightSquared for broadband services in rural areas.

"LightSquared' s ability to offer wireless services on a wholesale basis is an important factor for enabling AirTouch to compete with other wireless carriers and to offer wireless services that might not otherwise be able to receive them because the signal challenged areas in which they live or work," AirTouch CFO Jerome Kaiser wrote in a Feb. 8 letter to the FCC.

Karma Mobility planned to use LightSquared's network for a mobile hotspot, but will have to abandon the idea if the company fails to gain FCC clearance.

"I urge the FCC to fully support Lightsquared in offering their services, and fear for the future of the telecom industry where it not allowed to do so," Karma Mobility CEO Robert Gaal said in a Feb. 2 letter.

JOLT Mobile, VoX Communications and Exicon also sent letters to the agency.

The loss of LightSquared's wholesale service will leave its customers with few other options.

The company's ambitious plan attracted a number of companies, including Best Buy, who saw it as a more viable way to offer self-branded wireless products than trying to forge partnerships with operators like AT&T or Verizon Wireless.

LightSquared attempted to address the GPS interference issue by moving its network to a different band, but recent tests show its network still knocks out a large swath of receivers.

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