LightSquared Ends GPS Fight With Deere on Path to Doing Business

Updated on
  • Company still has to win regulatory approval to operate
  • Has emerged from bankruptcy and won change in control

LightSquared Inc. took another step toward opening the doors on its wireless broadband business, settling a dispute with Deere & Co. over how its spectrum will co-exist with GPS signals.

LightSquared, mired in legal and regulatory limbo since its 2012 bankruptcy filing, agreed to dial down some of its emissions and forgo terrestrial use of the band closest to the GPS signal on "downlink," or the transmission from satellite to ground station, the company said in a statement Tuesday. The pact marks the end of one of many disputes between LightSquared and GPS makers over how its spectrum interfered with their systems.

“We are glad to finally find resolution to these important spectrum issues and are pleased to reach an end to the case against Deere,” LightSquared Chief Executive Officer Doug Smith said in the statement.

The Lawsuit

“Deere looks forward to working with LightSquared and other spectrum users on the important dual goals of expanding mobile broadband networks while protecting GPS and other navigation technologies, both of which are critical to the nation’s interests,” Ken Golden, a spokesman, said in a statement.

LightSquared sued Deere, Garmin International Inc., Trimble Navigation Ltd. and other participants in the global-positioning satellite industry in 2013, accusing them of misrepresenting how GPS and broadband technologies would interact. It said they led LightSquared down the wrong path as founder Philip Falcone and his Harbinger Capital Partners LLC poured resources into the company, according to court papers.

The lawsuit wasn’t resolved with other defendants, Smith said in a phone interview Tuesday. According to court papers filed Nov. 23, LightSquared intended to make a new settlement proposal to Garmin and asked that Garmin not disclose the proposal to other defendants in the case.

Long Road

LightSquared didn’t provide a timeline for a launch. It will have to file the Deere agreement with the Federal Communications Commission, which would start the clock ticking on a long public-comment process. LightSquared would also need to strike pacts with the other GPS companies.

The settlement comes on the heels of another major development this month, when the company announced that the FCC had approved its application for a change in control, allowing JPMorgan Chase & Co. and others to take over its airwaves. LightSquared’s plan to actually operate, using its airwaves for a satellite and mobile-phone network, remains under consideration at the FCC without a deadline for action.

LightSquared filed for bankruptcy in 2012 after the regulator rejected a similar business plan, saying it would interfere with GPS technology. The company won approval of its plan to exit bankruptcy in March, after it resolved a dispute with its biggest creditor, Dish Network Corp. Chairman Charles Ergen.

The Chapter 11 plan as approved gave Centerbridge Capital Partners LP, Fortress Investment Group LLC and a unit of JPMorgan control of most of the company, Falcone’s Harbinger getting a minority of the new equity. It called for Ergen to be repaid in full and in cash. LightSquared emerged from bankruptcy on Dec. 7, according to papers filed in Manhattan bankruptcy court.

As part of the agreement with Deere, LightSquared will commit to conditions on its use of spectrum in an application to the FCC, and Deere agrees not to object to its deployment of a network within certain spectrum bands, according to the statement.

The agreement involved no payment from Deere, calls for LightSquared to pay some of Deere’s attorneys’ fees, and doesn’t constitute an endorsement of LightSquared’s network, Deere said in its statement.

The case is LightSquared Inc. v. Deere & Co.; 13-08157, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan). The bankruptcy case is In re LightSquared Inc., 12-bk-12080, U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal. LEARN MORE