LightSquared buys time: pays spectrum partner Inmarsat USD56m, suspends commitments for two years

23 Apr 2012

LightSquared, the stricken LTE venture backed by billionaire hedge fund manager Philip Falcone, has paid outstanding dues of USD56.3 million to satellite operator Inmarsat, its frequency-holding partner in a proposed wholesale mobile broadband network project, which it defaulted on in February after the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) retracted support for the rollout plan. Additionally, Inmarsat has agreed to suspend a secondary phase of the cooperation agreement with LightSquared until 31 March 2014, which according to a statement from the UK-based satellite firm ‘will allow LightSquared additional time to secure regulatory consents that may ultimately lead to the deployment of its [LTE network].’ During the suspension period, Inmarsat will not demand any payments from LightSquared, including an additional USD29.6 million amount that fell due at the end of March. In February the FCC declared that Lightsquared’s use of non-traditional spectrum in the 1.4GHz and 1.6GHz bands interfered with GPS satellite navigation devices and aircraft flight safety equipment.

In the fallout from the regulator’s decision to disallow its open access network rollout, LightSquared revealed plans to cut 45% of its 330-employee workforce, and cellco Sprint Nextel terminated a multi-billion dollar network-sharing agreement with the start-up, while saying that it remained ‘open to considering future spectrum hosting agreements’ in the event of resolving the interference issues. LightSquared, which had inked 30-plus wholesale service agreements in advance of its launch, has called the FCC’s conclusions ‘entirely unsupported by the law, science, and FCC policy and precedent’.