Spectrum Swap?

By Wayne Rash  |  Posted 2012-03-15 Print this article Print


One such option could be to request the use of spectrum that the FCC has said it will auction off to raise money for the payroll tax cut approved by Congress in February. It's possible that LightSquared could arrange a swap of its existing spectrum allocation, which was originally intended for mobile satellite communications and not for the terrestrial data service LightSquared had in mind, for other sections of spectrum that are farther away from GPS and unlikely to interfere.

The only potential downside of such a spectrum swap is that the FCC is hoping to raise a lot of cash, and LightSquared paid a relatively low price for the chunk of spectrum it got because most potential bidders assumed it would have limited use. But even if the spectrum swap wasn't completely free to LightSquared, it could allow the network to operate and it would free the company from its current regulatory albatross.

In an interview with Politico, Olsen said that what happened to LightSquared is "an egregious example" of the government encouraging the investment that LightSquared made. Olsen argues that the government acted arbitrarily.

Olsen also noted that he's getting involved because of the vast amount of money that LightSquared stands to lose. "It looks to me like the government has acted arbitrarily after inducing the expenditure of an enormous number of resources [sic]," he told Politico.

Previously, LightSquared charged that the government interference tests were rigged and designed to show that the LightSquared LTE network wouldn't work with GPS. The company told eWEEK at the time that the tests weren't conducted fairly, and that the details of the test results were kept from LightSquared.

The move to engage two high-profile lawyers in an effort to keep its doors open may be LightSquared's last available action. While it remains unclear what moves the company will do next, operating the data network it had proposed does not appear to be one of them. However, the comments by Olsen seem to indicate that LightSquared's goal is to recover the money the company has put into the effort to bring its network to market, not necessarily to overturn the FCC decision.

In fact, the company has a number of viable options that could fall into place, but operating the terrestrial network that would interfere with GPS is out of the question. Even if Olsen and Scalia were able to reopen the FCC decision, which seems unlikely, Congress has passed, and the President signed, legislation that would prevent LightSquared from ever operating its network as it has been proposed.

There's no question that LightSquared's lawyers are aware that the legislation is in place, meaning that just getting a court to overturn an FCC decision isn't enough. But the mood in Congress on both sides of the aisle is clearly set squarely against LightSquared's proposed network. If the FCC seemed likely to face a court challenge in its decision, Congress could, and likely would, take action to prevent it. After all, the prospect of millions of enraged GPS users massing on the West Lawn of the Capitol (assuming they could find it without their GPSes) is not something an elected official would want to contemplate.


Wayne Rash Wayne Rash is a Senior Analyst for eWEEK Labs and runs the magazine's Washington Bureau. Prior to joining eWEEK as a Senior Writer on wireless technology, he was a Senior Contributing Editor and previously a Senior Analyst in the InfoWorld Test Center. He was also a reviewer for Federal Computer Week and Information Security Magazine. Previously, he ran the reviews and events departments at CMP's InternetWeek.

He is a retired naval officer, a former principal at American Management Systems and a long-time columnist for Byte Magazine. He is a regular contributor to Plane & Pilot Magazine and The Washington Post.

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