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LightSquared scores another deal, hits back at critics

LightSquared's struggle is increasingly uphill

Embattled LTE startup LightSquared’s woes appear not to have put off prospective customers, as the company announced yesterday that VoIP provider netTalk had joined Sprint, Best Buy and Leap Wireless as a wholesale customer of the telco.

According to LightSquared, the VoIP company will “develop its own branded voice and high-speed mobile data services” using the wholesaler’s spectrum on a multi-year agreement. The value of the deal has not been revealed.

NetTalk offers low-cost subscription-based VoIP services in north America, offering free calls for US and Canadian customers with “no computer required.” Company president Anastasios Kyriakides said the agreement with LightSquared gave the company “an opportunity to service new customer segments with very competitive services.”

Earlier this month, LightSquared finalised a 15-year deal with US carrier Sprint that will see the pair sharing infrastructure in a deal rumoured to be worth in the region of $20bn. That deal, which has yet to be officially confirmed (LightSquared owner Philip Falcone has written a letter to investors, informing them of the deal) would see LightSquared using Sprint’s towers to build out its network. LightSquared has also claimed to be in talks with upwards of 20 other business, including cable operators and consumer device manufacturers.

The announcement of the deal with netTalk on Tuesday coincided with an announcement from the New York City Fire Department that it had joined the Coalition to Save our GPS group. The Coalition is opposed to LightSquared’s planned LTE network, claiming the wholesaler’s technology interferes with GPS. Despite LightSquared’s announcement last week that it had resolved interference issues by switching bands, the Coalition is having none of it and has lobbied hard to prevent the company from launching its network. Late last week, a US House of Representatives committee passed a bill blocking the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) from granting LightSquared a waiver is needs to move forward.

The company has until July 1st to report back to the FCC with results of a testing programme into the claimed interference. While the results have yet to be fully disclosed, early indications are that the proposed technology does interfere with a variety of public safety devices – something that LightSquared strenuously denies. The company is hitting back with its own public policy initiative and sponsoring a study that has found that the GPS industry in America receives an effective $18bn subsidy from the government because it uses GPS spectrum free of charge.


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