updated 10:35 am EDT, Fri March 16, 2012
Sprint cuts short LightSquared LTE network help
Sprint on Friday lived up to rumors and ended its LightSquared deal. The carrier decided against more than a second extension on the 4G startup's attempts to get its LTE network started. As part of the "contingencies" related to backtracking on the deal, Sprint would pay back the $65 million LightSquared had given to cover costs in advance, which Sprint said hadn't been used yet.
While it was required by the terms of the deal to cut off access, Sprint was friendly to LightSquared and said it "continues to be supportive" of the startup's plans. It was open to the prospect of "considering" a future pact not just with its one-time partner but with others that had wireless spectrum to use.
Cutting off the 15-year deal wouldn't have an impact either on customers or on the business, Sprint contended. LightSquared agreed to have its network deployment stopped after problems became apparent in order for Sprint's Network Vision strategy, where it unifies voice, 3G, and 4G all in one cell site.
LightSquared had been forced to go without clearance to deploy its proposed LTE network after the FCC determined the 1.6GHz network it wanted was inescapably interference-prone when put near GPS signals. The newcomer didn't dispute the idea of interference but went on the offensive, accusing officials of a conspiracy to protect GPS designers and that it was they who should change.
The rejection doesn't discard LightSquared, but it would slow down any deployment of an LTE network even if the FCC reversed its decision. Numerous small newcomer carriers were hoping to get started based on LightSquared and now have less certain than even after the dismissal.
LTE is just now hitting its stride in the US, with AT&T, MetroPCS, and Verizon already active while C Spire, Sprint, T-Mobile, and US Cellular have all committed to the technology. With the exception of RIM's BlackBerry, every major existing platform has at least one publicly announced LTE device, even including Apple's new iPad.