Is LightSquared Dead, or Just Pining for the Fjords?
"He's kicked the bucket, he's shuffled off this mortal coil, run down the curtain and joined the bleedin' choir invisible! This is an ex-network!"
"I'm not dead."
Forgive me for stitching together bits and pieces of two different Monty Python classics, but that's how I envision Phil Falcone's LightSquared mobile network right now. There's just no better way to describe it.
In 2011, the network was supposed to relieve Clearwire (Nasdaq: CLWR) of high-speed data duties on behalf of Sprint Nextel (NYSE: S) . Sprint wanted an alternative to Clearwire's WiMax-based services, and LightSquared promised to blanket the nation in LTE-compatible airwaves using a novel mix of technologies.
But the deal fell apart as the FCC found that LightSquared's proposed network would trample all over the increasingly important GPS frequencies. Not by overlapping, but by shouting right next to the GPS whispers, making it impossible for the weaker signal to be detected in many cases. That's a deal-breaker, dude.
The company is bankrupt and seemingly opt of options. But it's not entirely dead yet. Is LightSquared just pining for the fjords?
That possibility is raised by a brand-new request filed with the FCC. In it, LightSquared proposes a new structure of wireless radio wave usage, leaving a buffer zone next to the sensitive GPS signals.
The buffer is so wide, LightSquared would give up two-thirds of its assigned spectrum. In return, the company is asking to use another chunk of spectrum currently licensed to government agencies, bringing the total service to about two-thirds of the original allotment if everything is approved. A bigger slice of spectrum translates into faster and more reliable networks, so the size of the assignment is a big deal.
But a little bit of spectrum would surely be better than nothing at all, right? LightSquared's satellite-backed LTE network might be slower than competing solutions from AT&T (NYSE: T) and Verizon (NYSE: VZ) , or indeed Clearwire's pair of radio networks, but you can't compete with its nearly complete coverage map. Even a weaker network could do well in underserved spaces like the rural Midwest, where tower-based networks just aren't cost-effective.
So this Norwegian Blue might live to fight another day. Given its weakened state, I'm not sure it's worth the effort, but Phil Falcone seems to disagree.
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