Nobody expects…the Spanish Inquisition

Posted in Financials, LightSquared, Operators, Regulatory, Spectrum at 8:23 am by timfarrar

In recent days, the LightSquared PR machine has moved into ever higher gear, in an attempt to persuade Sprint that it should choose LightSquared over Clearwire. Given the frantic pace of announcements, I think that Sprint’s decision may come as soon as the next few weeks, in an attempt to disrupt the AT&T/T-Mobile merger, which was partly justified by citing the competition from Clearwire and LightSquared. However, it does feel a bit like something out of Monty Python, when LightSquared claim that the disappearance of their supposed deals with Sprint and MetroPCS is just a flesh wound.

Now we have another Monty Python scene coming into view, as the House of Representative’s Committee on Energy and Commerce moves ahead with an investigation into the FCC and their “management of commercial spectrum”. As Dave Burstein reports, there are clearly some senior staff at the FCC who share my concern about whether a “spectrum crisis” is being “manufactured”.

However, with not only the FCC Chairman’s reputation, but also the fate of the AT&T/T-Mobile merger, riding on the perpetuation of a “spectrum crisis” (not to mention billions of dollars of projected future budget revenues), it seems likely that the investigation will be more focused on political point scoring than on a serious debate about future spectrum demand.

Nevertheless, if Sprint’s upcoming decision leads to the failure of either LightSquared or Clearwire, then that really ought to prompt some hard questions about whether there actually is a spectrum crisis. Let’s hope that Congress’s investigators have more analytical resources at their disposal than “fear, surprise, ruthless efficiency…and nice red uniforms”.

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