03.09.11

What will LightSquared announce at CTIA?

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

Today FierceWireless has confirmed that Nokia Siemens Networks will be “cut loose” by LightSquared and that LightSquared is instead basing its plans on completing a network sharing agreement with Sprint. Sprint’s has today also provided some limited detail on this issue, noting that “it is ‘technically feasible and possible’ to support different spectrum from a wholesale partner on its network”, but that “any wholesale deal would depend on how much Sprint had to pay to rent the spectrum versus what it makes on the eventual service”. This seems to imply that part of the deal would involve Sprint potentially leasing some of the LightSquared spectrum (perhaps as compensation for the hosting fees?), although it is uncertain if there would be a committed cash payment from Sprint to LightSquared and who would fund any incremental buildout costs.

Intrigiungly, FierceWireless also hints that “LightSquared will announce significant news at the upcoming CTIA trade show in Orlando” on March 23, perhaps involving its collaboration with Ericsson. It is rather less clear whether this would also involve a commitment from Sprint on network sharing (given that Sprint has indicated that we should only “expect more news by the middle of the year”), and could end up simply being a confirmation that NSN is out, to be replaced in some form by Ericsson.

It is worth noting that Ericsson is the LTE contractor for MetroPCS, and as I’ve noted previously, MetroPCS needs to decide whether to back the Harbinger/Solus bid for DBSD and TerreStar (as opposed to bidding on its own for TerreStar) by March 15. Thus, even in the absence of any Sprint deal, I would expect to see a tie-up between LightSquared and Ericsson announced at CTIA.

Whether LightSquared will have more to announce is unclear, though the company has previously indicated that it “has an agreement with a major retailer that it will name before the end of March”. However, with Sprint apparently keeping its options open for the time being, it seems more likely that any news will be around the 2GHz band and it may take longer before we find out what is actually going to happen in the L-band.

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