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LightSquared: 'There's too much at stake to walk away'

Mon, 03/19/2012 - 2:35pm
Maisie Ramsay, Wireless Week

LightSquared made it clear on Friday that it's not going down without a fight.

The FCC's decision to stop it from launching its wireless network violated its constitutional rights, it said, vowing to find a way to move forward.

"I want to make one thing clear: We are not going away," LightSquared regulatory affairs executive Jeff Carlisle said during a call with reporters. "We know there's too much at stake here to just walk away."

After LightSquared was unable to fix major problems with GPS interference, the FCC decided last month to void LightSquared's waiver for its wholesale terrestrial-satellite LTE service and suspend its ability to deploy land-based base stations.

The move poses a seeming insurmountable obstacle to LightSquared's proposed wholesale LTE network, for which it had signed up more than 30 customers.

Characterizing the FCC's plan as "legally impermissible, arbitrary and capricious," LightSquared said it violated its constitutional rights to due process, property rights and equal protection rights.

The wording suggests LightSquared is gearing up for a legal fight with the government, but it continued to be tight-lipped about possible litigation.

Carlisle stopped short of saying LightSquared would sue the FCC over the matter, stating only that if it did not get a resolution in its favor, it would "examine all of our options and see where we go from there." LightSquared has reportedly hired a team of high-profile lawyers to create its legal strategy.

"[The FCC] can't just leave us without some sort of alternative to build a network," Carlisle said. LightSquared has now proposed exchanging its spectrum for other bands that don't pose a threat to GPS service.

A swap for valuable spectrum resources could be politically unpopular at a time when the government wants to glean revenue from airwaves, but Carlisle insisted there was precedent for a license exchange, citing the Telegent case in the 1990s and the 800 MHz re-banding.

Three of LightSquared's customers – Cricket Communications, FreedomPop and Simplexity – have already jumped ship and signed up for Clearwire's wholesale WiMAX service. Carlisle said that to the best of his knowledge, none of the contracts with LightSquared’s remaining wholesale customers has been canceled despite the recent round of crippling setbacks.

The path forward could be a slow one. Carlisle said LightSquared's efforts could span "a period of quarters and years."

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