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Falcone’s LightSquared Asks to Share Airwaves for Service

Philip Falcone’s bankrupt LightSquared Inc., in an attempt to revive a planned wireless network stymied by interference concerns, asked U.S. regulators to let it share airwaves with federal-government users.

The request was filed today with the Federal Communications Commission, Michael Tucker, a spokesman for the Reston, Virginia-based company, said in an e-mailed statement.

The company also told the FCC it would give up the right to some operations in airwaves near those used by the global-positioning system. The FCC blocked the service in February after GPS-device makers and users -- including the U.S. military and commercial airlines -- said signals from LightSquared’s service would confound navigation gear.

LightSquared filed for bankruptcy in May and said it intends to resolve the interference concerns. LightSquared can’t deploy its service while the FCC decides whether to revoke initial approvals, as it proposed doing in February, the agency told Congress Sept. 21. The agency hasn’t yet taken final action.

Makers and users of GPS equipment in a March filing at the FCC said there are “no feasible mitigation measures” to prevent interference from LightSquared. In today’s proposal, LightSquared asked the FCC to allow it to share frequencies used by weather balloons and weather satellites.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is the dominant user of the frequencies, Larry Strickling, administrator of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, said in a July 2010 speech.

No Conclusions

U.S. officials were examining whether the airwaves swath could be shared with commercial users and hadn’t drawn any conclusions, said Strickling, whose agency oversees federal airwaves use.

“We are aware of LightSquared’s interest in sharing,” Heather Phillips, a spokeswoman for the NTIA, said in an e-mailed statement. “If requested by the FCC, NTIA will work with NOAA to evaluate LightSquared’s request.”

Neil Grace, an FCC spokesman, declined to comment.

U.S. officials who manage frequency assignments increasingly are considering sharing arrangements, as airwaves become crowded with new uses. Letting others share parts of the spectrum now set aside for federal agencies could help meet surging demand from wireless smartphones and other mobile devices offered by commercial carriers, a White House advisory panel said in July.

Lenders holding more than $1 billion in LightSquared debt have challenged the control of Falcone, 50, whose hedge fund has invested about $3 billion in the company.

Regulatory Reversal

Falcone’s strategy of seeking a regulatory reversal is a “high-risk, high-return strategy” the lenders said in a Sept. 6 filing. They recommended instead that the company be sold.

The hedge fund, New York-based Harbinger Capital Partners, managed $4 billion at the end of last year, down from a peak of $26 billion in mid-2008. It wrote down its LightSquared position by 59 percent last year.

The company’s bankruptcy filing listed assets of $4.48 billion and debt of $2.29 billion as of Feb. 29.

The case is In re LightSquared Inc., 12-12080, U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

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