LightSquared announces wholesale agreements
LightSquared yesterday announced a multiyear wholesale agreement with VoX Communications — the 14th such agreement that the integrated satellite communications provider has inked with a variety of communications-oriented companies from various market sectors.
“Since I started to engage with customers slightly over a year ago, we’ve had a tremendous response from the market,” said Frank Boulben, LightSquared’s chief marketing officer. “What is worth noting is that not once in those customer interactions have we been told that we’ve got competition, meaning we are the only carrier out there offering 4G LTE on a wholesale basis.
“So, for anyone who wants to compete with AT&T and Verizon on the 4G LTE market, we are the only source of capacity. That means we are attractive to companies across a wide variety of segments.”
In addition to the 14 announced customers, LightSquared is in contract negotiations with 22 other entities and has had initial talks with more than 30 others, Boulben said.
LightSquared has deployed its next-generation satellite system and plans to begin offering commercial terrestrial services during the second half of 2012, when multimode, multiband devices are expected to be available, Boulben said. While the buildout of LightSquared’s proposed LTE network has been mired in controversy associated with potential interference with GPS operations, current plans call for the nationwide LTE network to be completed by the end of 2014.
“During the two years of network deployment, our customers will be able to use Sprint’s 3G network where 4G hasn’t been deployed yet,” Boulben said. “That is very important for customers, because it allows them to start with a nationwide offering from Day 1, even if our network is not fully deployed.”
As expected, LightSquared has announced deals with existing wireless carriers that lack a 4G migration path and/or a nationwide footprint many believe will be necessary to compete with industry behemoths AT&T and Verizon, Boulben said.
Wireline communications providers — ILECs, CLECs and cable companies — wanting to offer wireless services and Internet services providers also have signed deals.
In addition, retailers like Best Buy and device manufacturers have signed wholesale deals or have expressed interest, Boulben said.
“Unlike AT&T and Verizon, LightSquared’s network will be open,” he said. “We don’t restrict devices and we don’t restrict applications. So, our customers can run whatever application they want on our network. We don’t have voice revenues to protect, so we encourage and enable the voice-over-IP proposition.”
Of course, LightSquared has been known in the public-safety industry for offering satellite push-to-talk services. That capability will continue in the future and will be enhanced by the company’s next-generation satellite offerings and push-to-talk via applications over the LTE network — all available on a single device powered by versatile chipsets from Qualcomm and possibly other vendors, Boulben said. Existing public-safety customers are “very excited about these integrated smart phones” that will be introduced during the latter part of next year.
“Typically, what happens [today] is that those first responders have two phones — their regular cell phone, which is always with them, and their satellite phone, which is stuck in the drawer most of the time,” Boulben said. “They use [the satellite device] only when there is an earthquake, hurricane or whatever.
“The total cost of ownership for that is very high, because they have two devices. What we will be able to do with these integrated Qualcomm chipsets is to offer them one cell phone that is a terrestrial cell phone and satellite cell phone, without any impact on the battery, antenna or form factor.”