Sprint, LightSquared LTE Network Development Halted

NEWS ANALYSIS: LightSquared and Sprint agree to pull back on expenses and stop deployment of LightSquared terrestrial network.

Sprint has quietly put plans to deploy LightSquared's terrestrial Long-Term Evolution (LTE) network on hold until the Reston, Va., company finds a way to work past a series of regulatory roadblocks. Originally, Sprint agreed to provide tower space or to build new infrastructure in support of LightSquared's wholesale 4G mobile data delivery service, assuming that LightSquared was able to get regulatory approval by the end of January 2012.

Since that original deadline, Sprint has extended the date twice so that LightSquared now has until mid-March to get regulatory approval to build its network, or the deal is off. However, Sprint, is seeing the writing on the wall, and LightSquared, which was already running out of money, put the brakes on.

"Sprint and LightSquared jointly decided to pull back on expenses and stop new deployment design and implementation of LightSquared's network," Sprint spokesman Scott Sloat told eWEEK. Sloat said that all work on LightSquared's network has been halted.

The current schedule leaves little time for LightSquared to obtain regulatory approval as required by the arrangement with Sprint. The Federal Communications Commission formally requested comments on the National Telecommunications and Information Administration's (NTIA) findings that the LightSquared proposed solution produces unacceptable levels of interference to GPS that cannot be fixed. This vacates the conditional waiver that LightSquared had been granted and suspends its right to operate.

Those comments must be submitted by March 1, after which the FCC will reach a final decision. LightSquared has the right to protest the FCC decision, but in any case, the regulatory approval won't be forthcoming by mid-March 2012.

Meanwhile, LightSquared's troubles keep piling up. The company missed a Feb. 20 payment to Inmarsat, resulting in a notice of default. This default simply adds to LightSquared's financial woes, essentially making the company's end a matter of when, rather than if.

While Sprint hasn't pulled the plug on LightSquared just yet, it's not clear that it plans to continue to support the company in its efforts, especially after the last deadline passes. A Sprint spokesman declined to comment on any specifics.

Sprint has already stopped work on LightSquard's network, LightSquared is running out of money, and a reversal of the FCC decision to terminate the company's 4G LTE plan is unlikely because of the interference with GPS.

And regardless of LightSquared's claims that it should have precedence over GPS, the FCC isn't politically tone deaf, and it's not going to enrage tens of millions of GPS users just to placate LightSquared.

However, LightSquared does have a chance to field its network if it plays its cards right.

Wayne Rash

Wayne Rash

Wayne Rash is a freelance writer and editor with a 35 year history covering technology. He’s a frequent speaker on business, technology issues and enterprise computing. He covers Washington and...