03.17.10

Testing times for TerreStar and Harbinger

Posted in Financials, Handheld, LightSquared, Operators, Regulatory, Services, Spectrum, TerreStar at 8:27 pm by timfarrar

This morning I had a brief chance to try TerreStar’s new Genus phone before the MSS CEO panel at Satellite 2010/MSUA-7. As pointed out in previous posts, the link is quite sensitive to phone orientation (remember not to turn around during a call). In addition, the phone software is still being optimized to address various issues such as the delay in establishing a voice channel after a call is answered, and the registration time necessary to switch from cellular into satellite mode. However, satellite SMS appears to work well (both to and from the phone) and may end up being more important to TerreStar than originally anticipated. It will therefore be interesting to see to what degree TerreStar is able to take customers away from Iridium and other MSS providers (as TerreStar’s CEO indicated was his ambition) once the phone enters commercial service in the next few months.

While some questions remain about TerreStar’s satellite service, more clarity is emerging about Harbinger’s likely ATC plans after the release of the National Broadband Plan yesterday. As we noted a few weeks ago, it appears that a consortium is being put together by Harbinger (and a team of executives recruited) to build a new entrant LTE-based mobile broadband network, using a mixture of spectrum in the L-band, 2GHz band, 1.4GHz band and 1670-75MHz band, along with substantial vendor financing. The Broadband Plan indicates that the FCC is likely to be supportive of moves to accelerate the deployment of an ambitious ATC network, though Harbinger’s network would probably not require any substantive changes to current FCC regulations. It has been suggested to us that the network would ultimately require $4B of capex and another $4B in funding for subscriber acquisition and other costs, indicating a similar scale of ambitions to Clearwire, which is targeting a subscriber base of 30M users over a 10 year period. Such a plan would certainly be a transformative move for the entire MSS industry (even if its focus is almost entirely on terrestrial services), and so all of us will be waiting with bated breath to see whether Harbinger realizes its plans, something that now seems more likely than not to become clear in the very near future.

3 Comments »

  1. Mozoot Mobile Site said,

    July 20, 2010 at 12:18 pm

    [...] The new LTE entrant will use a mixture of spectrum in the L-band, 2GHz band, 1.4GHz band and 1670-75MHz band, along with substantial vendor financing, according to analyst Tim Farr of TMF Associates. [...]

  2. TMF Associates MSS blog » What is TerreStar’s satellite spectrum worth? said,

    August 23, 2010 at 12:10 pm

    [...] handheld Genus phone could generate perhaps $25M in wholesale service revenues by 2014, but after trying out the phone in March, we scaled back our [...]

  3. Exclusive analysis: Is there trouble in GEO’ville? said,

    October 1, 2010 at 4:35 am

    [...] reports by the highly respected President of the Mobile Satellite Users Association, Tim Farrar whom opined on his personal interaction with the device earlier this year near Baltimore at Satellite 2010. To the rather scathing opinion recently provided by the [...]

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