Last week, John Dooley of Jarvinian, who have been conducting tests of Globalstar’s proposed TLPS service (which is intended to provide a dedicated, managed WiFi channel) made a filing with the FCC in which he stated that the recent TLPS testing in the Bay Area was undertaken “to help a major technology company assess the significant performance benefits of TLPS for a transformative consumer broadband application”. His filing did not state the name of this company, but the testing under Globalstar’s experimental license (issued by the FCC on April 1) was undertaken at 3 locations in Cupertino and Sunnyvale.
The 3 latitude/longitude coordinates given in the experimental license are at:
1) 20450 Stevens Creek Boulevard, Cupertino (37-19-20 N, 122-01-53 W), the contact address for Amazon’s Lab 126 subsidiary
2) 1120 Enterprise Way, Mountain View (37-24-34 N, 122-02-11 W), recently leased by Amazon to accommodate Lab 126, and
3) 10201 Torre Avenue, Cupertino (37-19-11 N, 122-01-48 W), another Lab 126 office.
Of course, Amazon’s potential interest in Globalstar’s spectrum appears to be a key reason why Thermo agreed to invest another $85M into Globalstar in May, in order to complete the 5.75% notes exchange and restructure Globalstar’s $586M loan guaranteed by COFACE. Many investors are now also eagerly expecting the FCC to issue an NPRM setting out proposed rules for TLPS, although it is somewhat unclear whether Chairman Clyburn will act on her own, or if any decision will have to wait for incoming Chairman Wheeler (who has worked extensively on interference issues as chairman of the FCC’s TAC, which issued a report in February suggesting TLPS would be a good candidate for the FCC’s new approach to adjacent band interference).
The fact that the Globalstar experimental license will last for two years suggests that it may take some time for all interference issues to be resolved (including the dispute with BAS interests which is becoming increasingly heated) and/or for Amazon to make a final decision on whether to use TLPS or other spectrum for its planned new application. If Amazon does choose Globalstar then this could lead to a substantial windfall: Globalstar has asserted that its spectrum is even more valuable than that of Clearwire, because of the unique compatibility of TLPS with existing WiFi equipment, implying that it puts a value of at least $2B on the 22MHz of TLPS spectrum.
With the FCC’s intention to license additional spectrum for unlicensed or shared use in the 3600MHz and 5GHz bands, along with promotion of white space access technology, Amazon may have a choice of other cheaper spectrum (albeit without the same ecosystem) in the near future or even using capacity on an existing wireless network. However, until we find out more about the nature of Amazon’s plans it will be hard to know which spectrum is most suitable, and how much Amazon would want to pay to gain access to it.