LTE startup LightSquared is about to be dealt the final blow in a longstanding battle that has seen its dream of becoming “America’s dumbest pipe“ shattered. Controlled by hedge fund manager Philip Falcone, LightSquared had plans to deploy a nationwide 4G LTE network in the United States that would be licensed to wholesalers and utilized by carrier partners such as Sprint. LightSquared’s network was found to cause interference with spectrum used by various GPS navigation and tracking solutions, and though frequency bleeding caused by GPS network inefficiencies are to blame according to LightSquared, the Federal Communications Commission on Wednesday said it would not allow LightSquared’s network to launch. “NTIA, the federal agency that coordinates spectrum uses for the military and other federal government entities, has now concluded that there is no practical way to mitigate potential interference at this time,” FCC spokesman Tammy Sun wrote in a letter on Wednesday. “Consequently, the Commission will not lift the prohibition on LightSquared.” The FCC did acknowledge that the GPS industry must address the interference its networks are causing in order to free up neighboring spectrum for use by consumer broadband networks. More →
The Federal Communications Commission announced on Monday the reformation and modernization of the Lifeline program. The revamped program will ensure affordable phone service is available to low-income families. Lifeline is a “universal service program that fulfills Congress’s mandate to ensure the availability of communications to all Americans.” The percentage of low-income households with phone service has increased dramatically since the program began in 1985, from 80% to nearly 92% last year. The FCC is looking to create a number of databases and protocols to end carrier abuse of the program. One such measure will be the creation of an eligibility database from governmental data sources to automate eligibility of initial and ongoing Lifeline participants. The move will “reduce the potential for fraud while cutting red tape for consumers and providers.” Lifeline is set to be revamped by no later than the end of 2013. More →
MetroPCS, U.S. Cellular and several other regional carriers have requested that the Federal Communications Commission initiate a “shot clock” for roaming agreements with larger wireless carriers. “Supporters stressed that imposing a shot clock on negotiations is necessary to provide the proper incentive for potential roaming partners to timely respond to inquiries,” a lawyer representing the regional carriers said in a letter to FCC Secretary Marlene H. Dortch. “Although data roaming negotiations may involve complex issues, the Joint Supporters emphasized that other situations that incorporate shot clocks, such as interconnection and siting negotiations, also have the potential to involve complex issues, and yet, a shot clock still has been successfully implemented in those negotiations.” In other words, the smaller wireless carriers want larger carriers to stop stalling when it comes to negotiating roaming deals in areas where regional carriers provide connectivity and to instead “engage in good faith negotiations.”
Sprint has granted LightSquared six more weeks to gain approval from the Federal Communications Commission to launch its network. This is the second time the carrier has extended it deadline for LightSquared to prove to the FCC that its network does not interfere with GPS systems. There has been quite a battle going on between LightSquared and the government, however. LightSquared and a former FCC engineer have argued that the carrier’s 4G LTE network, which Sprint plans to use to help roll out its LTE service more quickly, was unfairly tested at higher power levels than the network will actually operate at and that testing was “rigged.” The company also said that those who tested its network would benefit from the FCC’s possible decision to prevent it from operating. “Sprint and LightSquared have agreed to extend our network agreement through mid March,” LightSquared said in a statement to BGR. “Sprint continues to support our business plan to bring wireless broadband to more than 260 million Americans and our ongoing efforts to work with regulatory agencies to resolve interference concerns.” LightSquared now has until March to gain the FCC’s blessing to operate. More →
Democratic Representative Edward Markey of Massachusetts released a draft of his cell phone privacy bill on Monday. The Mobile Device Privacy Act is designed to protect consumers from tracking software such as Carrier IQ, which caused an uproar late last year when it was discovered to be secretly monitoring 150 million smartphone users. The bill would require companies to disclose the use of such tracking software and clarify exactly what information the software collects. Customers would have to consent to any data collected or transmitted, and third parties would have to file applications with the Federal Trade Commission and the Federal Communications Commission to ensure the data is being transmitted securely. “Consumers have the right to know and to say ‘no’ to the presence of software on their mobile devices that can collect and transmit their personal and sensitive information,” said Markey when speaking to The Hill. Markey serves on the House Energy and Commerce Committee and is the co-chairman of the Congressional Privacy Caucus. More →
AT&T’s Senior Vice President-Federal Regulatory and Chief Privacy Officer Bob Quinn recently wrote a post on the company’s blog that called Sprint out for deciding to use roaming agreements, and “disinvesting” in its own network in Kansas and Oklahoma instead of providing customers with access to its network. As it turns out, the Federal Communications Commission originally prevented carriers, under the Home Market Rule, from creating roaming agreements when they had the spectrum or the ability to use their own networks. However, as Quinn explains, the rule was overturned in 2010 and is currently undergoing an appeals process.
Post updated below with a comment from a Sprint spokesperson. More →
In a memo released on Friday, the National Space-Based Positioning, Navigation and Timing Executive Committee said the nine federal agencies that make up the body have concluded unanimously that none of LightSquared’s proposals would overcome the network’s interference with GPS technologies. The announcement comes as a crushing blow for the startup, which is looking to build an LTE network with the company’s 1600MHz frequency. Preliminary testing last year showed that LightSquared’s planned network interfered with GPS. After a handful of rebuttals, changes, and more testing, the government has decided to pull the plug and request no further testing. The Federal Aviation Administration also concluded the network would interfere with aircraft safety systems.”Based upon this testing and analysis, there appear to be no practical solutions or mitigations that would permit the LightSquared broadband service, as proposed, to operate in the next few months or years without significantly interfering with GPS. As a result, no additional testing is warranted at this time,” the memo said. LightSquared slammed the decision, claiming the agency has a biased agenda that is in favor of the GPS industry. Late last year, LightSquared reiterated that the GPS industry is at fault and it demanded approval from the FCC to begin deploying its network. More →
LightSquared has asked NASA’s inspector general to investigate whether or not an advisor to federal agencies has conflicts of interest that make it unfair for him to determine whether or not LightSquared’s 4G LTE network interferes with GPS networks. The advisor was named as Bradford Parkinson, who works both as a vice chairman of Trimble Navigation, an industry board that advises federal agencies on GPS technology, and also as a Stanford University professor, The Wall Street Journal said Friday. “His involvement on both has been known by everyone involved since concerns of GPS interference by LightSquared were raised,” a GPS coalition spokesperson Dale Leibach told The Wall Street Journal. Read on for more. More →
Now that its bid to acquire T-Mobile USA for $39 billion has been put to bed by strong opposition, AT&T has to look elsewhere in an effort to find spectrum that will accommodate the carrier’s ever-growing subscriber base while it transitions to LTE. The carrier is clearly facing an uphill battle but it took a sizable step forward on Thursday evening when the Federal Communications Commission granted approval to AT&T’s proposed acquisition of 700MHz spectrum licenses from Qualcomm. ”This spectrum will help AT&T continue to deliver a world-class mobile broadband experience to our customers,” said AT&T SVP-Federal Regulatory Bob Quinn. AT&T will pay Qualcomm approximately $1.9 billion when the deal closes in the next few days, and the licenses AT&T gains cover more than 300 million people in the United States. AT&T’s press release follows below. More →
LightSquared on Tuesday issued a letter to the Federal Communications Commission ostensibly demanding approval to build out its 4G LTE network. LightSquared executive vice president of regulatory affairs and public policy Jeff Carlisle argued that the GPS industry has had almost 10 years to address issues that cause GPS satellite signals to partially transmit on spectrum that LightSquared has licensed. The letter was written in response to an announcement earlier this week from federal officials, stating that they were still concerned about interference LightSquared’s network causes with GPS equipment after conducting a new investigation into the matter. “LightSquared has had FCC authorization to build its network for over eight years and that authorization was endorsed by the GPS industry, and fully reviewed and allowed to proceed by several other government agencies,” Carlisle wrote in the letter. “Commercial GPS device-makers have had nearly a decade to design and sell devices that do not infringe on LightSquared’s licensed spectrum. They have no right to complain in the eleventh-hour about incompatibility when they had ample opportunity to avoid this problem.” A link to LightSquared’s full letter follows below. More →
Federal investigators have launched a probe in order to examine Carrier IQ’s smartphone software, which tracks a range of activity and sends certain data to wireless carriers without users’ knowledge. Carrier IQ executives met with officials from both the Federal Trade Commission and the Federal Communications Commuission on Tuesday, The Washington Post reports. “We are complying with all investigations at this time as we have nothing to hide,” said Carrier IQ representative Mira Woods. “We have been completely transparent through this process.” Read on for more. More →
AT&T said Monday that it, along with Deutsche Telekom, has asked Judge Ellen Huvelle to delay any further court hearings regarding AT&T’s planned $39 billion acquisition of T-Mobile USA until January 18th, 2012. AT&T said the delay will “allow the two companies time to evaluate all options” and that the U.S. Justice Department also joined in on the filing. AT&T recently withdrew its merger application from the FCC to instead focus on the lawsuit that was brought against the merger by the Department of Justice. “AT&T is committed to working with Deutsche Telekom to find a solution that is in the best interests of our respective customers, shareholders and employees,” AT&T said in a statement. “We are actively considering whether and how to revise our current transaction to achieve the necessary regulatory approvals so that we can deliver the capacity enhancements and improved customer service that can only be derived from combining our two companies’ wireless assets.” The delay makes a lot of sense, since the Department of Justice doesn’t have much of a reason to sue AT&T unless it has a merger application filed with the FCC. ”It’s not a real transaction until they file with the FCC,” Justice Department lead attorney Joseph Wayland said last week. AT&T’s full press release follows after the break. More →
AT&T has issued a scathing letter in response to the FCC’s decision to release a staff report on its findings surrounding AT&T’s planned $39 billion acquisition of T-Mobile USA. “We expected that the AT&T-T-Mobile transaction would receive careful, considered, and fair analysis,” Jim Cicconi, AT&T Senior Executive Vice President of External & Legislative Affairs, said. “Unfortunately, the preliminary FCC Staff Analysis offers none of that. The document is so obviously one-sided that any fair-minded person reading it is left with the clear impression that it is an advocacy piece, and not a considered analysis… The report cherry-picks facts to support its views, and ignores facts that don’t. Where facts were lacking, the report speculates, with no basis, and then treats its own speculations as if they were fact.” Read on for more.
Updated with statement from Sprint More →