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LightSquared Delivers Nationwide 4G-LTE Network

Written by Jennifer Gavigan

LTE is the latest standard in mobile network technology, providing an extremely high performance radio-access technology that gives users the capabilities in a mobile setting that they get on fixed networks. LTE is a giant step forward for public safety because of its unprecedented broadband capabilities. LTE meets the mission-critical needs of fi rst responders in the fi eld by providing greater data sharing in both directions. On July 20, 2010, Reston, Va.-based satellite company SkyTerra Communications Inc. re-emerged as LightSquared, forming the core of a New York private equity fund’s bid to enter the next-generation wireless market. The company kicked off an effort to deploy the 4G wireless broadband network through a combination of satellites and ground stations.

LightSquared plans to offer wholesale coverage for nearly the entire U.S. by the end of 2015. It has outsourced the deployment, operation and maintenance of that network to Nokia Siemens Networks, a leading supplier of telecommunications equipment and services. The venture could carry major implications for the region’s economy. LightSquared, if successful, would turn what was a satellite communications company of fewer than 200 employees into the vehicle for a national challenge to Verizon Communications Inc., Sprint/Nextel Corp. and AT&T. All three are in the midst of their own 4G rollout.

LightSquared’s mission is to revolutionize the U.S. wireless industry. Through the creation of the first-ever, wholesaleonly nationwide 4G-LTE network complemented by satellite coverage, LightSquared offers people the speed, value and reliability of universal broadband connectivity, wherever they are in the United States. Being wholesale-only, those without their own wireless network or those who have limited geographic coverage or spectrum can develop and sell their own devices, applications and services using LightSquared’s open 4G network—at a competitive cost and without retail competition from LightSquared.

LightSquared will deploy an open wireless broadband network using LTE, the most widely adopted 4G standard in the world now. Its LTE network will be combined with one of the largest commercial satellites ever launched, to provide coverage of the entire United States. This open network will unleash the full power of the mobile Internet, driving innovation in devices, applications and services. This integrated LTE-satellite network is a world first.

The LightSquared network is designed to support present-day and emerging wireless devices without restrictions. Its open wireless ecosystem removes existing barriers to the development of innovative applications and services in the mobile Internet space. LightSquared will build out its own nationwide wireless network of base stations. Its integrated LTEsatellite network will serve critical public sector needs such as emergency preparedness and interoperable communications in crisis situations.

Technology Infrastructure

LightSquared will provide 4G wireless broadband services by pairing a nationwide LTE terrestrial network with ubiquitous satellite coverage. LightSquared will ensure consumers have fast, reliable connectivity, regardless of location. By 2015, LightSquared expects to cover at least 92 percent of people in the U.S. with its wireless broadband network.

In addition, from commercial launch it will offer the entire nation wireless coverage through its satellite. Nokia Siemens Networks has signed an eight-year agreement with LightSquared, subject to final approval by both the Nokia Siemens Networks and the LightSquared boards. The eight-year agreement includes network design, equipment manufacturing and installation, and network operations and maintenance.

From a technology perspective, LTE has a maximum data rate (more than 100 MB/sec) that enables LightSquared to offer more immediate communication with minimal delay and faster upload and download speeds. Because the satellite component can provide reliable connectivity, first responders can maintain communications and coordinate relief efforts in the event of a disaster. There will also be connectivity in rural markets where no reliable wireless communications currently exist.

The satellite component of the integrated LightSquared network, a Boeing satellite, was launched in November 2010. This space-based network will provide coverage to users when they are out of cellular range. LightSquared’s next generation satellite will allow for connectivity to mobile devices without penalizing form factor, battery life or performance.

LightSquared already owns 59 MHz of nationwide spectrum. Under the Cooperation Agreement with Inmarsat, LightSquared (formerly SkyTerra) designed a phased plan aimed at addressing growing wireless broadband demand. The agreement increased the amount of contiguous spectrum available to both parties and provided LightSquared enhanced operational flexibility for deployment of its 4G-LTE integrated terrestrial and satellite network. To implement Phase 1, Inmarsat immediately began a process of transition to a modified spectrum plan to increase spectrum contiguity.

Roaming Agreements

LightSquared and Cellular South entered into a bilateral roaming agreement to provide subscribers of Cellular South with a nationwide 4G-LTE footprint as well as satellite coverage in rural areas where there is no terrestrial network. It will also expand LightSquared’s 4G data coverage to additional rural communities, which is essential for public safety. Cellular South is the nation’s largest privately owned wireless communications provider.

LightSquared and SI Wireless have also entered into a bilateral roaming agreement. Like Cellular South, this agreement will provide subscribers of SI Wireless with a nationwide 4G-LTE footprint as well as satellite coverage in rural areas where there is no terrestrial network. It will also expand LightSquared’s data coverage to additional rural communities in the SI Wireless coverage area.

LightSquared and Open Range Communications, a broadband wireless provider of Internet and digital phone service to rural American communities, entered into an agreement in principle to establish a multi-year strategic network partnership. This partnership provides benefits to consumers, businesses, healthcare, tribal organizations, public safety and other government users located in or traveling to rural communities and who are seeking access to the latest generation of mobile services.

ERRT

LightSquared’s Emergency Rapid Response Communications Team (ERRT) deploys to emergency and disaster locations throughout North America. The team provides on-call mobile satellite communications services, personnel and equipment for emergency support to federal, state and local first responders and public safety agencies.

The ERRT is a part of LightSquared’s Emergency Preparedness Program—a new year-round program designed to provide federal, state and local first responders and public safety agencies with enhanced mobile satellite service and support in advance of and during emergencies such as hurricanes, earthquakes and all natural and man-made disasters.


LightSquared’s Emergency Preparedness Program is a multipronged approach to make available LightSquared’s satellite communications services to keep first responders and public safety personnel connected during emergencies even if terrestrial wireless and landline systems are compromised. The key elements include pre-hurricane season preparedness; satellite communications equipment readiness and testing; emergency response support, including quick deployment of the ERRT to provide on-site communications support and spare equipment.

LightSquared has a history of supporting agencies dedicated to providing emergency services. The company has supported earthquake relief operations in Haiti, provided essential first responder mobile satellite communications following hurricanes throughout the southeast U.S., and provided command and control communications support for fi refi ghting operations in California.

Jennifer Gavigan has been writing about cutting-edge topics in the field of law enforcement for LAW and ORDER for more than eight years. She can be reached at jgavigan@hendonpub.com.

Published in Law and Order, Jul 2011

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