Home > Broadband, LTE > LightSquared, Spectrum & LTE Deployment

LightSquared, Spectrum & LTE Deployment

Operators have to make choices for technologies based on few rules – Technology, legacy network backward compatibility, technology ecosystem meaning vendors for Infrastructure/handsets and cost-benefit ratio. They also have to make choices involving which air interface technology to pick, but also which frequency band to utilize.  For the frequency band, both licensed and unlicensed alternatives exist providing different strategic paths.  Spectrum alternatives are compared based on ability to purchase, channel fragmentation, interference from other users, requirements to clear incumbent users, radiated power limitations and technology compatibility. These air interfaces are compared based on spectrum compatibilities, spectral efficiencies, link budgets and deployment costs.

In the near future, operators will be presented with, and challenged by, new and exciting opportunities to deploy LTE based mobile broadband services but like with any new network technology, comes the question of spectrum. Radio frequency is a valuable and finite resource and, today, there is simply not enough to satisfy demand. The need for spectrum is being driven by the pervasive convenience of mobile communications and increased penetration combined with improved performance and the falling costs of wireless devices & services.

This is where LTE can help – in effect, LTE boasts leading radio spectral efficiency, meaning that LTE operators will make the most of their existing and new spectrum assets and provide significant capacity to support existing and future services. In addition, LTE’s ability to take advantage of new spectrum allocations with bandwidth as large as 20MHz and the opportunity to potentially re-farm existing legacy spectrum with spectrum bandwidth as low as 1.4MHz is one of LTE’s key feature that will enable early LTE deployments and open up markets that were previously inaccessible.

Over the next several years the spectrum landscape will change along with the complex industry dynamics, subscriber migration and spectrum auctions in the 700MHz or 2.5-2.6 GHz bands will have a direct influence on the LTE ecosystem and in which band LTE will be deployed. And new market entrants like Harbinger-Light Squared as well as Clearwire are looking to fulfill this demand, with open networks and a 4G ecosystem.

Do we need another operator?

Do we need another operator to fulfill the projected digital divide for wireless broadband? Harbinger Capital, seems to think so – the idea is to build a national 4G network of 36,000 base stations using LTE technology, and then lease it to network operators too poor to build their own seems to be their main business plan.  Building a mobile network requires enormous amounts of cash – some estimates claim you shouldn’t be sitting down unless you’ve got $40bn to put on the table – but Harbinger reckons that with a suitably flexible FCC and a couple of satellite launches it can get the network operable for something in the region of $7bn.

The first cost saving comes from those satellites, or at least the frequencies in which they operate. Harbinger has bought into two satellite operators, getting compete ownership of SkyTerra and a decent stake in TerreStar Networks. With SkyTerra, Harbinger has access to 21MHz of national radio spectrum, but not in one place and most of it reserved for satellite use, under existing rules. The plan is to take advantage of a loophole in those rules to run a ground-based service that can compete with the incumbents on a level playing field.

They seem to have their strategy cut-out with some very ambitious steps –

  • Outsource the network build-out/Operations to NSN(Nokia-Siemens Networks) for $7 Bil
  • NSN is also a partner with Infrastructure equipment as their main CAPEX investment.
  • NSN plans to build and monitor this network with NOC established in India.

Light Squared website states this as their mission – First truly open, wholesale-only network

LightSquared is building the only national 4G-LTE open wireless broadband network that incorporates nationwide satellite coverage and offers the capacity to support the explosive demand generated by new consumer devices and mobile applications. Through its wholesale-only business model, those without their own wireless network or who have limited geographic coverage or spectrum can market and sell their own products using the LightSquared network—at a competitive price and without retail competition from LightSquared.

Convenient connectivity for all

LightSquared enables manufacturers and retailers to provide a one-box solution for consumers, while creating new customer relationships and ongoing revenue streams for themselves. Because it is a completely open network, partners can develop their own devices, applications, and services that use the LightSquared network. For example, by partnering with LightSquared, retailers will be able to sell devices bundled with service, enabling potential new recurring revenue streams for every device while maintaining full ownership of their customers. Telecommunications service providers can expand their coverage and capabilities via LightSquared’s nationwide 4G network without massive capital outlays. Device manufacturers can launch innovative and integrated devices, bundled with content and broadband service, while ensuring full ownership of their customer relationships.

Source: http://www.lightsquared.com/

Video of Lightsquared CEO Sanjiv Ahujahttp://clipsyndicate.com/video/playlist/8178/1602366

Harbinger Spectrum holdings

Harbinger will initially have 23 MHz available from SkyTerra – 8 MHz of 1.4 GHz terrestrial spectrum, 5 MHz of 1.6 GHz terrestrial spectrum and 10 MHz of MSS L-Band spectrum (ATC waiver). By 2013, they expect to have an additional 30MHz available through cooperation with Inmarsat and additional ATC waivers in the L-Band.

Top 100 US Markets spectrum holdings:

Spectrum available for 4G

On July 15th 2010, the Federal Communications Commission took steps to make additional spectrum available for new investment in mobile broadband networks by promoting flexible use and removing barriers, while ensuring robust mobile satellite service capabilities. Mobile broadband is emerging as one of America’s most dynamic, innovative and economically viable communications platforms. The National Broadband Plan calls for an additional 500 MHz of spectrum for broadband services. This proceeding will help make 90 megahertz of prime spectrum available for mobile broadband deployment and unleash private sector investment and innovation – opening the door to new mobile networks, devices and technologies. Specifically, the Commission explores spectrum allocated to the Mobile Satellite Service (MSS) in three bands — the 2 GHz band, Big LEO band, and Lband.

The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) that the Commission adopted and outlined two proposals that would remove regulatory barriers to terrestrial (i.e. land-based) use and promote additional investments in the MSS bands, while retaining sufficient market-wide MSS capability. First, it proposed to add co-primary fixed and mobile allocations to the 2 GHz band. This allocation modification set the stage for more flexible use of the band by terrestrial services. Second, it proposed to expand existing secondary market policies and rules to address transactions involving the use of MSS bands for terrestrial services. This would create greater predictability in bands licensed for terrestrial mobile broadband service.

Conclusion

It is always good for the customer whenever there is more competition among the operators for a piece of the wireless pie. Over the last three years we have seen all you can eat plans from Sprint and T-Mobile as well as some regional operators, and new entrants can only make it cheaper and more competitive. With the ecosystem set to explode with tablets and smartphones, it is only fair to say that broadband for Americas will finally get competition which will pave the way for cheaper access to wireless broadband. A leaked memo from a few days back revealed that Lightsquared is set to launch up to 20 cities in 2012, including New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles. Here is one very interesting graphic showing price per MHz value of spectrum that is being used for wireless Broadband.

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