FCC Chief Sees LightSquared Getting Cleared for AirwavesScott Moritz and Todd Shields
Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski said he expects LightSquared Inc. to eventually win approval for using its airwaves, after it was blocked by the regulators on concern they would interfere with global-positioning system signals.
LightSquared’s airwaves are “too valuable” to be left unused, Genachowski said at an investor conference today in New York. Work is under way on solutions such as possible swaps of frequencies for cleaner airwaves and tighter enforcement of signal parameters in GPS devices, to enable LightSquared’s so-called L-band radio waves to become usable, Genachowski said.
“Clearance will ultimately happen in the L-band for LightSquared,” said Genachowski. “The spectrum will be freed for terrestrial use.”
Genachowski’s optimism could help revive some of the hopes that made LightSquared, a fledgling Reston, Virginia-based firm, a bold bet for challenging the dominance of Verizon Wireless and AT&T Inc. in the U.S. wireless market. Philip Falcone’s Harbinger Capital Partners LLC had invested about $3 billion and owned about 74 percent of the firm, before it filed for bankruptcy a year ago after failing to get approval.
The FCC under Genachowski gave LightSquared a tentative go-ahead in 2011, then blocked it last year after tests showed the proposed high-speed network for as many as 260 million people would interfere with GPS units, including those that help keep aircraft from crashing into mountains.
LightSquared has said it remains committed to finding a solution. Last month the FCC gave LightSquared permission to experiment with sharing airwaves now used by U.S. government weather satellites and weather balloons.
Genachowski is to step down as head of the FCC this month and Tom Wheeler, a venture capitalist and former lobbyist, has been nominated to replace him.