LightSquared rebrands as Ligado Networks but spectrum plans remain cloudy

After emerging from bankruptcy and settling interference disputes with three GPS vendors, LightSquared is rebranding as Ligado Networks. But Ligado's precise strategy for leveraging its spectrum has yet to be determined.

LightSquared concluded nearly three years of bankruptcy protection last March after it won approval for a restructuring plan and was placed in the hands of multiple investment groups. It later forged separate agreements with Deere, Garmin and Trimble, ending long-running legal disputes over interference concerns between LightSquared's proposed service and GPS equipment.

LightSquared launched in 2010 with the goal of building a wholesale nationwide LTE network that customers could use to provide their own wireless services. It inked roughly three dozen customers before the FCC revoked its conditional license to operate in the L-band, citing unresolved concerns over interference and forcing LightSquared into bankruptcy.

Doug Smith, who took the reins as CEO while the company was in bankruptcy court, said that while it's too early to say exactly how LightSquared will come to market, it isn't necessarily planning to build a network for wholesale use.

"In terms of where the opportunity lies, there's a lot of opportunity in different segments. I'm not prepared to tell you which one or which few we will go after specifically," Smith said during an interview with FierceWireless. "The 2010 and 2011 business model has changed."

Not that any new business model will be put to use anytime soon: Ligado -- which is Spanish for "bound" or "attached" -- still faces opposition from a coalition of aviation companies concerned about interference with GPS, and it still needs to gain complete FCC approvals for the commercial use of its spectrum. Thus, some important pieces will have to fall into place before Ligado can face the daunting and expensive task of building a nationwide network.

Indeed, Ligado executives including Reed Hundt and others met this week with top FCC officials to discuss testing by the company that it said shows no interference between its systems and GPS receivers. "It is clear that GPS and wireless broadband operations can coexist on adjacent channels," the company said in an FCC filing. "Accordingly, the Commission should commence the process of providing this clarity to the entire industry by issuing a public notice on the issues and proposals raised in the License Modification Applications so that all interested parties may have the opportunity to comment on the proposed operational limits and New LightSquared's plans for terrestrial deployment. If adopted, the license modifications New LightSquared has proposed would not only open up new broadband spectrum in the U.S. but also would promote American leadership in setting global standards, in turn creating greenfield spectrum for 5G buildout."

But Ligado still owns a valuable nationwide block of 1525 MHz to 1559 MHz spectrum in the L-Band, and Smith said the company has no designs on selling the airwaves. Instead, it's eyeing the IoT market and potential 5G technologies and services as it tries to put LightSquared's troubles in the rear-view mirror.

"As an example, when we look at the Internet of Things, it's not just things; the real keys to success are the connections between those things as well as the quality of that connectivity," Smith said in a prepared statement. "In order to accelerate delivery of innovative services in such verticals as healthcare, automotive, industrial, shipping, home, and municipal sectors and to more broadly fulfill the promise of next-generation mobile networks, more mid-band spectrum is needed. Mid-band spectrum is part of the solution to deliver ultra-reliable, highly-secure, and capacity-rich connectivity."

For more:
- see this Ligado press release

Related articles:
LightSquared settles long-running Garmin dispute
LightSquared announces spectrum agreement with Deere & Co.
FCC approves LightSquared's request to transfer spectrum licenses
LightSquared, Trimble to seek settlement over GPS interference disputes
LightSquared reports settlement talks with Deere, Trimble, but not with Garmin