LightSquared's Quest for Spectrum Continues

By Trey Hanbury and Neal DesaiLightSquared, the satellite-terrestrial venture backed by Phil Falcone, continues to push for a spectrum solution that the FCC will accept.  On Aug. 7, 2013, the FCC moved the proceeding forward, requesting comment on LightSquared’s recent study that showed no interference between its proposed terrestrial uplink operations and GPS providers.  If the Commission is convinced there is no interference, this approach would allow LightSquared to deploy terrestrial uplink operations on its current MSS uplink spectrum.  Paired with higher-frequency downlink spectrum that LightSquared is seeking, this could finally provide the basis for LightSquared to offer its wholesale 4G LTE service.

LightSquared began its current regulatory odyssey on Jan. 11, 2011, when the Commission granted LightSquared a waiver allowing it to deploy a terrestrial mobile broadband system as seen here:

Original proposal
The Commission conditioned the waiver on LightSquared’s activities not causing harmful interference to adjacent GPS operators.  The order prescribed an Interference Resolution Process by which LightSquared would work with the GPS community to resolve interference concerns and prohibited LightSquared from launching its service until these issues were addressed. 

During this process, LightSquared proposed to alter its spectrum usage.  Specifically, it proposed a spectrum swap – relinquishing a portion of its downlink spectrum (1545–1555 MHz) and beginning a new proceeding on the service rules for its 1526–1536 MHz downlink, during which LightSquared would not deploy any operations on that band.  In exchange, LightSquared requested use of 1670–1680 MHz as downlink.  LightSquared leased 1670–1675 MHz from OP Corp., which is controlled by Crown Castle Corporation, but required Commission authorization to share 1675–1680 MHz with incumbent government meteorological users, as shown here:

First Proposal
On Feb. 14, 2013, the NTIA reported that there was no practical way to mitigate interference to GPS operators from LightSquared’s downlink operations.  The next day the Commission requested comments on revoking LightSquared’s waiver. 

On April 29, 2013, however, the Commission advanced LightSquared’s spectrum swap proposal, giving LightSquared a three-month, experimental sharing authorization on 1675–1680 MHz, which it later extended for a further four months. 

LightSquared’s current spectrum usage, therefore, is shown here:

Current allocation
The Commission’s most recent request for comments comes in response to a LightSquared study showing that its uplink spectrum (portions of 1626.5–1660.5 MHz) will not cause harmful interference to GPS operators, which could potentially allow it deploy its terrestrial uplink.  This uplink would be paired with downlink spectrum at 1670–1680 MHz according to its outstanding proposal to share 1675–1680 MHz with incumbent government meteorological users.  If the Commission grants the request, LightSquared’s end state spectrum allocation would look like this:

LightSquared s Quest for Spectrum Continues

LightSquared may also sell its spectrum assets as a part of its on-going bankruptcy proceedings.  In May, 2013, DISH Network Corporation, the satellite television provider owned by Charlie Ergen, placed a $2 billion “stalking horse” bid for the frequencies.  The bankruptcy court is scheduled to hold a hearing on the bid on Sept. 24, 2013.  The deadline for the auction (if any) of LightSquared’s assets is Dec. 6, 2013. 

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