The good, the bad and the ugly

Posted in Financials, ICO/DBSD, LightSquared, Operators, Spectrum, TerreStar at 8:48 am by timfarrar

As I noted last month, I found it very surprising that LightSquared chose to announce that it had “five customers” for wholesale fourth-generation service, consisting of “a national retailer, a device manufacturer, one Web site, and two carriers”, but declined to name any of them. Over the last five weeks, two of these names have emerged – Open Range Communications and today Leap Wireless. However, LightSquared is still to reveal the “major retailer that it will name before the end of March”.

Just like the deal with Open Range ten days ago, when everyone thought LightSquared would announce a major deal with MetroPCS, today’s release also seems to be a major let down. LightSquared had promised everyone that it had a network sharing agreement with Sprint to announce at CTIA. Perhaps this will still be announced tomorrow, but that would be a rather peculiar PR strategy, and PR is one thing that LightSquared has been very effective at. Given the complex array of choices now facing Sprint, as it decides how to respond to the AT&T/T-Mobile deal, it seems more likely that Sprint has taken a step back to reconsider what happens next.

As I understand it, the Leap Wireless roaming deal was agreed six months ago, leading LightSquared to claim at the SATCON conference in New York in October that it had already secured a 3G roaming partner to “augment” its network coverage. It also hardly seems likely to generate a meaningful amount of revenue for LightSquared, especially if it is a reciprocal roaming agreement. If 30% of Leap’s 5.5M customers opted for 4G roaming, and the net revenue flow to LightSquared was $2 per sub per month, then this would only generate about $40M of revenues per year for LightSquared, a drop in the bucket compared to its planned $14B investment.

The second major LightSquared announcement that was expected at CTIA was a network infrastructure deal with Ericsson. Its therefore surprising that an interview with a LightSquared executive has been published today on Telecoms.com, once again talking about LightSquared’s “deal” with Nokia Siemens Networks. As an aside, I’m told that the reason it is always referred to as a “deal” or an “agreement” with NSN, is because the original MoU, signed last July, has never been converted into a formal contract.

In my previous post, I wondered “which of DBSD/TerreStar, Clearwire and LightSquared will ultimately turn out to be the good, the bad and the ugly”. Given the results of the DBSD bankruptcy auction, DBSD certainly turned out to be good for its investors. Now we just have to wait and see what happens with TerreStar, Clearwire and LightSquared.

1 Comment »

  1. IM Gadgets » Lightsquared Signs Cricket Wireless said,

    March 23, 2011 at 10:47 am

    [...] Wireless 2011 trade show, and is expected to outline more details about the company’s plans. LightSquared was rumored to have a network sharing agreement with Sprint. Perhaps all will be [...]

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