Things don't look good for LightSquared, the embattled budding US wholesale LTE network. If interference problems don't nail it the US security authorities might.
It's a rough and tumble business building a new network, not least because those who want you to succeed are inevitably outnumbered by those who wish you ill, and in LightSquared's case that list of ill-wishers seems quite long.
Near the top is the global GPS device manufacturer community followed by the existing wireless operators (who naturally don't like to see any new capacity, unless they control it) and even the US financial regulators who are after LightSquared's founder, Philip Falcone, for alleged violations of security regulations in the administration of his Harbinger Capital Management fund which is the primary investor in LightSquared.
The other side of the LightSquared pincer movement is, of course, an alliance of global positioning device vendors who say the LightSquared network, which envisages using spectrum originally set aside for various satellite services, will interfere with GPS devices - everything from navigation systems used in planes, ships and boats, and of course cars.
LightSquared denies the interference claims and says that such interference, when and where it exists at all, is the responsibility of the device makers for not following the guidelines set out for their use of the frequencies.
To settle the matter independent tests under the auspices of the US National Telecommunications & Information Administration have been undertaken.
The agency says it's still reviewing the data, but details have been leaked in advance which indicate that the service envisaged by LightSquared caused interference to 75 percent of GPS receivers examined.
LightSquared has expressed itself “outraged by the illegal leak of incomplete government data,” and claims that the partial leak doesn't explain that the interference documented was caused via high-powered operation of the system. In the real world, claims LightSquared, the LTE network will be operating at far lower power output and therefore won't be causing the interference.
Martin Harriman, Executive Vice President of Ecosystem Development and Satellite Business, at LightSquared issued a statement thus: "The statement that testing shows that most GPS devices would be disrupted by LightSquared's operation is patently false. There is no way that such a conclusion could be drawn without deliberately ignoring a critical element in LightSquared's mitigation proposal to manage the power from its network that GPS devices will be able to receive. By ignoring this commitment by LightSquared, this conclusion is erroneously based on estimated power levels that are up to 15 times the levels guaranteed by LightSquared."
Whatever the truth of all this, the continued squabbling is surely sapping confidence in the viability of the LightSquared venture amongst investors, partners and observers. Meanwhile there are more test results to come early next year and LightSquared seems determined to push on and into the courts if necessary to keep its show on the road.
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