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LightSquared makes 4G case to the public

LightSquared's CEO plans to publish an open letter reiterating the need for another wholesale 4G network.

LightSquared CEO Sanjiv Ahuja delivers a speech at CTIA 2011. Marguerite Reardon/CNET

LightSquared CEO Sanjiv Ahuja is taking his case for building another 4G network to the public.

Ahuja and LightSquared plan to publish an open letter in major newspapers tomorrow advocating the need for the company's planned 4G LTE network, which has come under fire over concerns that it interferes with critical GPS equipment. Over the past few months, the company has attempted to appease GPS companies, government officials, and regulators, by taking steps including using spectrum less likely to cause interference, starting up a program to address the issue in rural communities, and most recently unveiling a device that would solve the interference problem altogether.

Through it all, LightSquared has faced stiff resistance from the GPS industry and continued skepticism from government officials. By sending out its open letter, the company hopes to get the public on its side and apply pressure to the regulators who still need to approve the 4G network rollout.

"America's wireless infrastructure is at a critical crossroad as weak signals, dead-zones, and over-subscribed networks risk stalling American innovation and failing to meet consumer needs now and in the future," Sanjiv said in the letter.

LightSquared, which is owned by Philip Falcone and his Harbinger Capital hedge fund, has been attempting to build an open wholesale 4G LTE network that would lease capacity and service to retailers, rural carriers, or other major wireless companies looking to offload some excess capacity. The company says it believes the network is the answer to the looming capacity crunch facing the wireless industry.

The company, however, also believes that resistance is not only coming from the GPS industry, but the traditional wireless carriers. Falcone said during an interview with CNBC that AT&T and Verizon Wireless were undermining LightSquared through their support of the opposition. Both carriers deny the claim.

LightSquared is banking that the Federal Communications Commission will ultimately give the OK for the company to build its network. Ahuja told CNET in an interview that he is confident enough to have no alternate plan if the FCC decides to block the rollout.

Here's the text of the full letter:

To Americans everywhere,

Today, with limited competition in the U.S. wireless market, there are still vast areas of our country without access to broadband. Other areas are plagued by dropped calls and weak signals.

America's wireless infrastructure is at a critical crossroad as weak signals, dead-zones, and over-subscribed networks risk stalling American innovation and failing to meet consumer needs now and in the future. Within the next 24 months, demand for broadband wireless will outstrip the current total spectrum available in the United States--jeopardizing everything from the smartphones and tablets we love to the emergency responder services we rely upon to keep us safe. The current nationwide wireless providers have failed to innovate and in the process have failed to keep pace with consumer and technological demands.

Understanding this impending reality, LightSquared began investing nearly a decade ago in the development of America's first state-of-the-art nationwide wireless broadband network integrated with satellite coverage to provide high quality broadband access and affordability for all Americans. After the review of our engineering and technological plans, LightSquared received the license to operate our network in 2003 and again in 2005 with the full endorsement of the GPS industry. Half a dozen years ago, Republican and Democrat regulators and policy experts understood the impending crisis caused by a lack of competition and innovation, and they, too, endorsed our plan to bring an affordable solution to Americans no matter where they live.

Recently, concerns have been raised about interference with GPS devices. We take these concerns very seriously. Despite the fact that the interference is caused by others' inappropriate use of LightSquared's licensed spectrum, we have been proactive in working toward a solution to the GPS issue. We are making a $150 million private investment in the solution for GPS. We have moved our spectrum farther away from the core GPS frequencies and at the request of the FCC, we set up, funded, and ran the largest and most comprehensive testing program this country has ever seen.

Hundreds of engineers tested hundreds of devices in laboratories around the country, providing experts an enormous bank of data to assess the extent of the problem and design the solution.

With 99.5 percent of all commercial GPS interference accounted for and solved, LightSquared has now tackled solving the remaining .5 percent of GPS interference occurring on precision devices that also inappropriately violate our licensed spectrum. We have partnered with established GPS manufacturers to develop technology that eliminates interference issues for high-precision GPS devices, including those in the agriculture, surveying, construction, and defense industries. Pre-production designs are already in testing; once completed, this technology can be implemented simply, quickly, and inexpensively into GPS devices.

This solution allows our network to coexist harmoniously, side by side, with GPS--generating much-needed competition in the marketplace and ultimately providing more than 260 million Americans with access to wireless broadband.

The facts are clear. The need for additional wireless broadband is imminent. The desire to expand free-market competition and to provide consumers with broader access has been the hallmark of both Republican and Democrat policy makers for more than a decade. Regulators from both Democrat and Republican Administrations have conducted reviews and tests of the LightSquared network--the most extensive in the history of the FCC--and both have reached the same conclusions: they support the LightSquared network.

LightSquared's commitment to infuse $14 billion of private investment--without any government funding--into America's infrastructure will bring 75,000 jobs over the next five years, competition, and innovation to the U.S. wireless industry, with affordable prices and better service for Americans everywhere. I hope you will join with us as we work to build the 21st-century communications network all Americans deserve.

To learn more, visit us at

Yours sincerely,
Sanjiv Ahuja
Chairman and CEO, LightSquared