03.08.11

You can’t always get what you want…

Posted in Financials, ICO/DBSD, LightSquared, Operators, Regulatory, Spectrum, TerreStar at 10:09 am by timfarrar

But if you try sometimes you might find
You get what you need

With news emerging about early stage talks between Sprint and T-Mobile over a potential combination of the two companies, or some other deal involving Clearwire, it now looks less likely that either Sprint or T-Mobile would be willing to move ahead with any partnership with LightSquared in the near term. However, Harbinger looks rather better positioned with MetroPCS, whose CFO recently described LightSquared as “a wonderful option for us”. MetroPCS has also just raised an additional $1B for “opportunistic” acquisitions of “nationwide” (i.e. MSS) spectrum.

Harbinger and Solus have to formalize their bid for DBSD by no later than March 15, in order for it to be considered as a realistic alternative to the current bid from DISH. In addition, TerreStar Networks’ exclusivity period to propose its own reorganization plan is currently scheduled to expire on March 9, opening up the possibility for Harbinger and Solus to submit their bid for TerreStar at that point.

Given these tight timelines, Harbinger and Solus may now have to move forward in partnership with MetroPCS (assuming a deal can be struck for a joint bid) in an attempt to buy DBSD and TerreStar. The structure of such a venture might not include LightSquared’s L-band operations, given the high value that Harbinger has placed on those assets, plus its (GPS interference) risks and liabilities (to Inmarsat for the L-band spectrum lease). Indeed if Harbinger did ultimately move forward with a separate 2GHz joint venture (based on much cheaper spectrum), it seems more likely that Harbinger would instead seek to distribute its holdings in LightSquared to investors requesting redemptions.

However, clearly Harbinger, Solus and MetroPCS would hope that the FCC will provide a similar waiver of the ATC gating criteria to that recently granted to LightSquared. Whether or not the buildout of a 2GHz terrestrial network then took place in conjunction with LightSquared’s buildout (through the sort of spectrum pooling/network sharing arrangement that has been discussed in the past between LightSquared and TerreStar) would presumably depend on whether and when the L-band GPS interference issues are resolved.

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