Raw Economics & Visible Future :

Nokia Siemens Networks Lands LightSquared Deal

In one of the largest telecom gambles in United States history, LightSquared, backed by New York hedge fund Harbinger Capital Partners, has put pen to paper and contracted Nokia Siemens Networks to build their wireless broadband network.

I first wrote of the LightSquared plan about two weeks ago in, “New Broadband Service Coming to United States, LightSquared,” at their initial announcement but more information has now come to light.

The network will be combination of satellite and 4G/LTE terrestrial wireless networks. The plan is to launch in late 2011, covering 9 million Americans in Denver and Phoenix. Their requirements for rollout will then continue to grow: 100 million by 2012, 145 million by 2013 and their inevitable goal of 260 million Americans by 2015.

The LightSquared project has been as much a legal and political battle, as well as, technical. AT&T and Verizon lobbied against the FCC approval of the fusion of Harbinger and Skyterra that would become LightSquared. Harbinger has been under the microscope on its ability to fully fund the project. The satellite spectrum LightSquared will utilize has only been recently granted approval by the FCC and they must meet very tight deadlines set by regulators to conitinue deployment.

The firm contracted to build the LightSquared network, Nokia Siemens Networks, has been forged from many metals: originally a joint venture between Siemen’s COM division and Nokia’s Network Business Group, then later, the acquisition of Motorola’s networks business. NSN is now one of the world’s largest telecommunications equipment suppliers and has operations in over 150 countries. Headquartered in Espoo, Greater Helsinki, Finland and Munich, Germany, while service operations are based in India.

Can LightSquared make their goals, pay the bills and make a profit? There is no argument that the demand is there for a broadband hungry and mobile US population that is far too often, short on competitive options. Needless to say, the challenges are significant: regulatory expectations, complex technology, a rapidly shifting market and an extremely tight deadline.

As stated in the earlier essay, if LightSquared can pull off this audacious plan as they have described it, a brave new world will certainly dawn for broadband going forward.

Originally published in the Swiss online newspaper, www.zitig.ch, reedited for WholeThinking.

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