The perfect storm…

Posted in ICO/DBSD, LightSquared, Operators, Regulatory, Spectrum, TerreStar at 3:49 pm by timfarrar

As LightSquared continues to be engulfed by a tidal wave of criticism from the GPS industry, it now appears that this storm is setting up perfectly for DISH Network to solve the FCC’s problem: how to ensure that a competitive wholesale mobile broadband network can be deployed when it seems nearly impossible for LightSquared to use its L-band spectrum. While some think that DISH could lease its 2GHz spectrum holdings to LightSquared, to me it seems far more likely that DISH has plans for its own national 4G LTE wireless network, in partnership with “somebody who is more of an expert in that business than we are“.

Indeed in the application to transfer DBSD’s spectrum licenses to DISH, filed back in April, the company stated that “we expect the transaction to result in the provision of mobile broadband services” and in particular:

DISH plans to deploy a hybrid satellite/terrestrial system dedicated to the provision of mobile broadband services. If successful, consumers will be able to use their mobile terminals for high-speed Internet access as well as a myriad of Internet Protocol-based, over-the-top applications, including mobile video. DISH expects that the consumer equipment will include broadband-capable tablet computers, among other devices. DISH anticipates offering services both on a stand-alone basis and in a consumer-friendly bundle with its multichannel video services.

If DISH does manage to line up the partners to deploy such a network (potentially including MetroPCS, whose interest in the 2GHz band is well known), then that might well leave LightSquared to sink without a trace, as it would make it much easier for the FCC to defer to demands from the NTIA for six months of additional testing on LightSquared’s new spectrum plan. Of course, a six month delay would put the decision timeframe into the midst of a presidential election year, when it is all but inconceivable that either the White House or Congress would go against the wishes of millions of farmers, engineers, aviators and boaters.

In contrast, an alternative network proposed by DISH would have a ready made support base, not only from those parties demanding increased wireless broadband competition, but also from all those who have demanded that LightSquared’s network be moved outside the L-band. It seems both sides would therefore be eager to support the FCC granting DISH a waiver similar to LightSquared, permitting terrestrial-only devices, if DISH was to commit to aggressive buildout milestones and to providing wholesale access to its network capacity as Harbinger did back in March 2010.

Today there have been renewed rumors that Sprint will announce a deal with LightSquared during its Q2 results call on July 28, although another source has suggested to me that Sprint does not intend to set out its Network Vision plans at that time. Thus I’m left wondering whether this is an attempt to derail DISH’s plans, which certainly seem to be in pretty high gear, judging by the number of visits DISH has made to the FCC in recent weeks to discuss the 2GHz MSS spectrum band.

Maybe we are therefore moving towards the last few minutes of this Seinfeld episode. However, as Charlie Ergen knows only too well, in Seinfeld there are very few happy endings, except when they come at someone else’s expense.


  1. ORBITRAX said,

    July 14, 2011 at 8:38 am

    Of course the question becomes… Is Falcone and Lightsquared really that interested in building a wholesale nationwide network that they would effectively lease the necessary spectrum to do so? Or was Falcone’s play simply an attempt to parlay cheap satellite spectrum into Billions of dollars worth of Terrestrial Spectrum?

    Was Lightsquared really a solution to a FCC problem as you call it? One that would promote the idea of providing a competitive wholesale broadband network my converting MSS spectrum into a Terrestrial based service. Obviously, that concern was not that great as the FCC effectively dismantled an existing competitive 4G network buildout on MSS spectrum with Globalstar. Where Open Range/Globalstar actually was building a commercial network with actual customers versus the “bag of promises” that Lightsquared has provided to date.


  2. levelnever said,

    July 26, 2011 at 2:28 pm

    I just wanted to say been following Lightsquared since early 2010 and this has been by far the best source of analysis and educated speculation on the Lightsquared saga (and all the players and entanglements) out there. Keep up the great work.

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