WASHINGTON May 13, 2011 – The New America Foundation gathered key industry experts on Thursday to discuss whether satellite spectrum should be reclassified so that it can be used for the expansion of terrestrial mobile broadband.
With the spectrum crunch that many experts anticipate, many industry experts are calling for the reclassification of the satellite spectrum to be used for the expansion of mobile broadband. Rather than wholly reclassify the spectrum, LightSquared uses their mobile satellite spectrum holdings to deploy a nationwide Long-Term Evolution (LTE) network with both terrestrial and satellite components.
The CEO of LightSquared, Sanjiv Ahuja, provided an expansive overview of how the firm plans to combine satellite coverage with terrestrial towers to create a nationwide, wholesale 4G LTE network. All the devices that run on the network will be able to seamlessly switch from satellite to terrestrial giving users true nationwide coverage.
“For the first time users will be able to go from Manhattan to the Grand Canyon and keep their coverage,” said Ahuja.
LightSquared will not offer service directly to consumers - rather it will provide network access to mobile providers and allow hardware makers to connect their devices directly to the network. Ahuja predicts that the low cost of access for the mobile providers will expand the number of companies offering prepaid options.
“We have set up an innovation center in Silicon Valley where we are working with mobile providers and hardware makers to develop new technologies which will work on our network,” said Ahuja. “We’ve already met with a camera manufacturer that wants to put a chip in its cameras that will allow consumers to directly upload pictures to their choice of services directly from the camera.”
Ahuja sees his firm as a disruptive technology, allowing small regional carriers to gain access to 4G services without having to find new spectrum or build out a network. He also promised that the network would be fully open allowing all compatible hardware access to the network.
“Due to the unique combination of satellite and terrestrial the LightSquared network is ideal for public safety users,” Ahuja said.
Since the network operates nationwide, public safety workers can move from region to region without losing access to the network.
“We want to build out an LTE network but we simply don’t have the necessary spectrum or the physical network,” said Bill Ingram, Senior VP of strategy for Cricket/Leap wireless. “We signed a deal with LightSquared to provide the necessary access our customers demand.”
Parul Desai, Consumers Union Communications Policy Council, said that this new wholesale provider will increase competition in the market by allowing smaller providers access to the necessary network infrastructure to compete.
Desai also called for the expansion of handset access to regional mobile carriers to improve market competition.
Michael Calabrese, Director of the Wireless Future Project at the New America Foundation, praised this new wholesale market as a great way to increase competition in the mobile market.
“The recent [FCC] roaming order along with the creation of the LightSquared network will greatly help regional carriers compete with the major national mobile companies,” said Calabrese, “With the possible merger of AT&T and T-Mobile, there need to be more firms in the marketplace to increase competition and prevent the potential duopoly from controlling the market.”