July 21, 2010

Nationwide 4G Wireless Broadband Network Scheme Unveiled

Beginning next year, U.S. businesses and consumers may have another option for wireless services with the launch of a new 4G wireless broadband network that will rival those of incumbent telecom companies.

Harbinger Capital Partners, a New York-based investment firm, unveiled its ambitious plan on Tuesday to construct a high-speed wireless broadband network that would cover more than 90 percent of the country by 2015.

The company said it had signed a $7 billion deal with Nokia Siemens Networks to "deploy, install, operate, and maintain" a broadband network known as "LightSquared."

The LightSquared satellite and mobile broadband network would offer broadband capacity to wireless providers, cable companies, content providers, retailers, device makers and other businesses.

"The nationwide LightSquared network, consisting of approximately 40,000 cellular base stations, will cover 92 percent of the US population by 2015," said LightSquared in a statement.

"In addition, from commercial launch it will offer the entire nation coverage through its satellite."

"By using satellite coverage, we can ensure constant connectivity, even if the terrestrial network is not available," said Sanjiv Ahuja, who was named chairman and CEO of the new venture.

Ahuja was the former chief executive of France's Orange.

Federal Communications Commission (FCC) chairman Julius Genachowski praised the initiative.

"I was pleased to learn of the formation of LightSquared today," said Genachowski, who has made improving broadband Internet access one of his major priorities.

"This new nationwide 4G wireless broadband network represents more than seven billion dollars of new investment, with the potential to create more than 100,000 new private-sector jobs within five years," he said in a statement.

LightSquared is backed by Harbinger's founder and CEO, Philip Falcone.

"Demand for wireless broadband is growing at a rapid pace and there is an increasing need for additional network capacity and reach," the AFP news agency quoted Falcone as saying.

Harbinger Capital Partners recently acquired SkyTerra Communications, Inc., which is now part of LightSquared.

Ahuja said the new venture will "be a disruptive force in the U.S. wireless landscape by democratizing wireless broadband services."

"We're providing everyone, including underserved communities, with a fast, reliable experience regardless of where they are located in the United States," he said.

"This network will return our country to its rightful position as a leader in wireless broadband technology."

LightSquared said it plans to launch commercial services during the second half of 2011, and that their network will reach at least 100 million Americans by December 2012.

The announcement of the deal with Nokia Siemens Networks comes the day after the Finnish-German giant unveiled plans to acquire most of Motorola's wireless network infrastructure assets for $1.2 billion.

LightSquared plans to use a technology known as LTE, or Long Term Evolution, for its 4G, or fourth-generation, wireless broadband network.

AT&T and Verizon Wireless, the two leading U.S. wireless network operators, are also building networks using the LTE standard.  Sprint Nextel Corp. is deploying its mobile broadband network using WiMax, a rival 4G technology.


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