Senators make plea for LightSquared

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Senators from both sides of the aisle have come together to ask the Federal Communications Commission to give LightSquared one more chance. Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) wrote to the FCC in a letter obtained by The Hill, asking the agency to find spectrum for LightSquared that will not interfere with GPS signals. LightSquared wants to wholesale spectrum to carriers, and says it can bring down consumer prices for wireless service by as much as 50%. But the FCC says LightSquared’s cell towers would interfere with GPS receivers operating on nearby frequencies.

But asking the FCC to find unused spectrum may be like asking a flight attendant to find an empty row on an overbooked flight. “Free operating spectrum is highly sought after by all mobile carriers,” says William Ho, who covers consumer wireless services for Current Analysis. “If there were some, you’d bet those companies would be positioning for it. If there may be some government-use spectrum, it takes some time to clear, as evidenced by the time it took to clear some of the AWS bands and get it into service.”

One possible source of spectrum could be over-the-air broadcasters. The FCC wants broadcasters to release spectrum into public auctions and take a portion of the auction proceeds, but so far broadcasters have not shown much interest in the plan. And as more and more US consumers get cable programming over the Internet, a growing number of households are abandoning cable and relying on a combination of over-the-air broadcast TV and Internet TV.

LightSquared’s chairman, Sanjiv Ahuja remains committed to his vision, and believes the FCC will eventually find a way to help LightSquared achieve its vision. He spoke about the company’s future recently at the RCA Spring Expo in Orlando, Florida.

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Martha DeGrasse

Editor, Wireless Infrastructure
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Martha DeGrasse is an editor at RCR Wireless News, and is the creator of the RCR Mobile Minute. Martha has been with RCR Wireless News since 2011. Her current focus areas are wireless infrastructure and heterogeneous networks. Prior to joining RCR Wireless News, Martha produced business and technology news for CNN and Dow Jones in New York. Martha left Dow Jones to move to Austin, Texas, where she managed the online editorial group at Hoover’s Online before taking a number of years off to be at home when her children were young. Follow her at Twitter @mdegrasseRCR

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