Today LightSquared has been making a big deal about how its “independent tests” have shown that “LightSquared is well on its way to demonstrating that GPS interference issues have been resolved”. This is in line with LightSquared’s statement to the FCC on November 15, that “any determination that the federal precision and timing coexistence issue has been resolved would have to be based on objective and independent test results and not the subjective views of the federal agencies involved”. However, now LightSquared appears to have lost its backing from both the White House and the FCC (and the views of the federal agencies are pretty clear), LightSquared cannot seriously expect the FCC to change the currently defined PNT testing process, and so I think that the only place LightSquared will be trying to argue that point is in the court of public opinion, followed sooner or later by a court of law.
LightSquared also appears to be renewing the tired arguments about how its integrated satellite network can provide coverage everywhere, even quoting the Commissioner of Randolph County, GA who suggested that “this powerful new high-speed network will finally allow them to access broadband wherever they might live or work or travel”. However, LightSquared has never intended to provide terrestrial service in Randolph County, GA, as shown in this chart of planned terrestrial coverage that LightSquared presented at a conference in October 2010.
Even if its deal with Sprint comes to fruition (which now seems unlikely to say the least), LightSquared won’t provide terrestrial coverage there, because Sprint has no towers in Randolph County either.
Thus any potential LightSquared customers in Randolph County will have to rely on satellite coverage. I wonder if they realize that they will get at most 200-300kbps downlink speeds and 10-20kbps uplink speeds from a LightSquared handset? And that they will have to stand outside in an open area and make sure they know which direction the satellite is in? Even more problematically, the total data capacity for all the handsets using the SkyTerra-1 satellite anywhere in the US is roughly equivalent to the capacity of a single LTE base station. And remember that LightSquared’s wholesale partners get 500kbytes of satellite data for every Gbyte of terrestrial capacity that they buy, so they will only be allocating 1Mbyte of satellite data per month for each customer on a standard 2Gbyte terrestrial data plan (if they even sell service to customers who live outside terrestrial coverage).
UPDATE (2/9/12): LightSquared’s satellite capabilities have now been revealed in documents produced by the FCC in response to FOIA requests. The total capacity of each LightSquared satellite is stated to be 100 gigabytes per hour (222Mbps) compared to 2800 terabytes per hour on the terrestrial network (28,000 times more, or in other words the satellite capacity for all users in North America is approximately equal to the capacity of a single base station). Furthermore, LightSquared’s intended wholesale pricing for satellite data (before it was marked up by their partners) was $10 per Mbyte, or 1600 times the price of LightSquared’s terrestrial data services.
Of course I’m sure that none of the endless parade of former politicians that LightSquared has hired has any conception of the technical issues involved, so they will presumably keep touting the company right up to the point at which the money runs out and the lawsuits start flying.