HOLLYWOOD, Fla.—LightSquared Chief Network Officer Drew Caplan shared the wholesale operator’s philosophy on its planned role in the wireless space, telling PCIA’s Wireless Infrastructure 2010 audience that while operators are not dumb pipes, they aren’t the companies inventing great applications either.
In a Day 2 keynote, Caplan said wireless operators only invented one real application – short messaging services. LightSquared its job is to build a great LTE network and leave the rest to its partners. “It’s our job to build great connectivity and then largely get out of the way.”
As such, LightSquared’s plans to use its 40 megahertz of spectrum to deploy a network of 40,000 cell sites, covering 100 million people by 2012 in order to meet Federal Communications Commission-mandated coverage requirements. The greenfield deployment will use all remote radio heads and place its cell towers close to existing fiber in order to take advantage of fiber’s backhaul capabilities. Caplan said he expects about 60% of the carrier’s network will use fiber-based backhaul. Using existing fiber will be cheaper and help the company roll out the network faster.
The carrier plans to employ between 500 and 700 people, and let its wholesale partners take care of the consumer-facing efforts. “We think the failure of the MVNO model is largely due to channel conflict,” Caplan told the audience, because the virtual operators couldn’t compete with their host carriers as both companies essentially were selling to the same audience.
Caplan said that Qualcomm Inc. is making chips that support LightSquared’s L-band spectrum so manufacturers interested in making a dual-band handsets that uses terrestrial and satellite-based services would be able manufacture them. LightSquared doesn’t intend to procure devices for its partners long-term, but may aggregate products early on in network deployments, Caplan told RCR Wireless News. “From a business perspective, customers will want to manage their own device portfolios,” Caplan said, but said in the beginning LightSquared “may want to juice that lineup of initial devices for our partners.”
Nokia Corp., AnyData Corp. and BandRich have commited to making devices.
Rather than building out its own network, LightSquared is outsourcing the 8-year, $7 billion deal to Nokia Siemens Networks. Susan Schramm, head of marketing and corporate affairs at NSN, told the audience that these new partnerships are more than just mere words. NSN puts up new base stations every two minutes – it is the second-largest network operator if one aggregates its managed networks, Schramm said. Along with managed services, the partnership between Nokia Siemens and its operators has resulted in NSN handling events as large and quick as the FIFA world Soccer Cup, when South African-based operator VodaCom had to deal with huge traffic surges over a small period of time, and more mundane services, like remote battery monitoring.
In other news, AnyData said it plans to develop modules and USB modems for the LightSquared LTE network. The devices will operate in the L-band, using EGAL (Enhanced Geostationary Air Link) technology as well as LTE and GSM-based networks. The modules are expected to be available in 2011.