LightSquared to start building LTE network

The carrier hopes to deploy some base stations before the FCC approves turning them on

LightSquared plans to start building its terrestrial wireless network soon, despite a regulatory approval process that has sparked vehement opposition from GPS vendors and won't be over until at least the middle of August.

"We can begin to roll out the network without turning it on," said Martin Harriman, executive vice president of LightSquared, in an interview on Thursday. "We will start deployments shortly, we have base stations in production, and ... our first devices are imminent."

The startup believes all the pieces are in place for it to start rolling out the network, except for the need for approval from the U.S. Federal Communications Commission to start using its radio spectrum, Harriman said. By getting infrastructure in place before the final approval, it could launch services more quickly after the decision.

LightSquared is on track to begin large-scale testing of its US$14 billion hybrid network at the beginning of next year, with commercial service available toward the end of the first quarter, Harriman said. Data cards with both satellite and LTE (Long-Term Evolution) capability will also be ready in or near the September timeframe to which the company committed to the FCC earlier this year. At that point, the devices will start to undergo extensive testing in preparation for the launch of services, he said.

In addition to covering 100 percent of the U.S. population with a satellite network, LightSquared has committed to reaching 36 percent of U.S. residents with its LTE (Long-Term Evolution) network by the end of 2012. By 2015, that figure would grow to 92 percent, or 260 million people. LightSquared won't offer consumers access to the networks directly but will sell service wholesale to partners including Best Buy and Leap Wireless.

However, because of LightSquared's unprecedented plan to use frequencies in the MSS (Mobile Satellite Service) band for a full-scale cellular network based on land, the company's service is hostage to an FCC requirement that it resolve possible interference with GPS (Global Positioning System) receivers. On Thursday, LightSquared gave the FCC the results of interference tests and a new plan to prevent problems by setting aside part of its spectrum.

Those reports are open for public comment until July 30 and then for responses until Aug. 15. The International Bureau, which oversees the MSS spectrum, could take as long as it likes to issue an order, and that order could be appealed to the FCC's commissioners for a vote.

The threat of disruption to GPS has sparked fierce opposition from companies in several industries and led government agencies to voice caution about the LTE network.

The company already has satellites in orbit, including SkyTerra-1, one of the world's largest communications satellites. Along with backup satellites, SkyTerra-1 will be able to deliver a connection to subscribers of hundreds of kilobits per second both upstream and downstream, Harriman said. As with other satellite systems, using it will require an unobstructed view of the sky.

LightSquared's cellular data network will be competitive with other LTE systems, such as Verizon's, and capable of downstream speed of about 20M bps (bits per second), he said. Leaving the upper portion of its spectrum aside wouldn't affect the speed of the network, but that spectrum would probably be needed later to expand capacity to serve a growing user base, Harriman said.

The dual-mode client devices for LightSquared's network will be based on the Qualcomm MDM9600 chipset, which is already shipping in volume, Harriman said. The MDM9600 is a flexible chipset that can be adapted to many different types of radio networks. Prototype data cards built with the MDM9600 are already in testing with Qualcomm in San Diego, Harriman said. LightSquared expects handsets to start shipping next June.

Both the Qualcomm-based clients and the base stations on LightSquared's LTE network can be easily adapted to use different parts of the company's spectrum, so the company's new plan won't hold up development of those components, Harriman said.

Stephen Lawson covers mobile, storage and networking technologies for The IDG News Service. Follow Stephen on Twitter at @sdlawsonmedia. Stephen's e-mail address is stephen_lawson@idg.com

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags governmentregulationGPStelecommunication4gconsumer electronicsCarriersU.S. Federal Communications CommissionLightSquared

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Stephen Lawson

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Father’s Day Gift Guide

Brand Post

Bitdefender 2019

Bitdefender’s best-in-class security solutions have been awarded Product of the Year. Get cybersecurity that 500 MILLION users already have and trust!

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Luke Hill

MSI GT75 TITAN

I need power and lots of it. As a Front End Web developer anything less just won’t cut it which is why the MSI GT75 is an outstanding laptop for me. It’s a sleek and futuristic looking, high quality, beast that has a touch of sci-fi flare about it.

Emily Tyson

MSI GE63 Raider

If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63.

Laura Johnston

MSI GS65 Stealth Thin

If you can afford the price tag, it is well worth the money. It out performs any other laptop I have tried for gaming, and the transportable design and incredible display also make it ideal for work.

Andrew Teoh

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

Touch screen visibility and operation was great and easy to navigate. Each menu and sub-menu was in an understandable order and category

Louise Coady

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

The printer was convenient, produced clear and vibrant images and was very easy to use

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Featured Content

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?