Will Cablevision now consider using ATC spectrum?

Posted in Inmarsat, LightSquared, Spectrum at 8:41 am by timfarrar

Harbinger Capital has just acquired a 4.9% stake in Cablevision at a cost of some $350M, only a few days after we suggested that it would have to invest billions of dollars in a wireless operator to facilitate the deployment of ATC.

Notably, Cablevision is not participating in the Clearwire JV with other cable companies and instead has opted to deploy a WiFi network in the New York area with a planned investment of some $300M over the next two years. Most other operators have found the use of unlicensed spectrum less than satisfactory, particularly for providing indoor coverage, which requires much higher power levels. As a result, Cablevision may ultimately find that it needs to move to licensed frequencies for its deployment, and there has been speculation that it would be a potential purchaser of NextWave’s 2.5GHz spectrum. However, to date NextWave’s efforts to sell this spectrum appear to have been unsuccessful.

While Harbinger’s initial stake in Cablevision is relatively small, its past record suggests that it may increase its stake over time and seek to influence the direction of the company. Cablevision could well be a potential user of the L-band MSS-ATC spectrum block that Harbinger is seeking to put together via a merger of Skyterra and Inmarsat. We speculate that Harbinger might even try to engineer a consortium of Cablevision and Leap (and perhaps other companies), similar to the Clearwire JV, to build and sell broadband services on a national ATC network.

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