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November 16, 2010

LightSquared Gets SkyTerra 1 Satellite into Orbit

By Doug Mohney, Contributing Editor


LTE (News - Alert)/satellite hybrid operator, LightSquared, revealed that its SkyTerra 1 satellite successfully made it into orbit over the weekend.

SkyTerra 1 was launched on an Internatlonal Launch Services (ILS) Proton Breeze M rocket from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on November 14. LightSquared's (News - Alert) satellite is a Boeing 702HP featuring a 22-meter L-band reflector-based antenna, the largest commercial antenna to be put into service, and the company brags of it being "among the most powerful communications satellites ever built."

The next task is to move SkyTerra 1 into a geostationary orbit at around 101 degrees west longitude, a journey expected to take a couple of weeks. SkyTerra 2 is planned to go up some time in 2011

LightSquared is building a combination satellite and terrestrial 4G-LTE network to cover North America. It will operate the network in a wholesale-only model, partnering with others to enable carrier access to a full nationwide LTE market, with satellite providing coverage in rural areas and for supporting emergency communications. 

Partners can bring or build their own devices, incorporating support for both terrestrial LTE and satellite wireless communications. On the device side, Qualcomm (News - Alert) has incorporated L-Band LTE technology into its chipset roadmap and supports the network through its MDM9600 chipset. Nokia has signed up to provide branded "data-centric" products for LightSquared customers and AnyDATA (News - Alert) and BandRich will be providing embedded modules, USB data modems and "other devices" in the second half of 2011. Smartphones and other devices are expected to appear by 2012.

Formerly known as SkyTerra, LightSquared generated a lot of attention over the summer between its rebranding and media outreach. The company claims its network buildout will generate more than 100,000 direct and indirect private sector jobs over the next five years, between construction, administration and actual utilization, a bold claim given the rough reception satellite phone services have received in the U.S. in the past.

LightSquared also has controversy circling its owner, the Harbinger Capital Partners (News - Alert) venture fund.   The fund is reportedly under investigation by the SEC and Department of Justice by providing a $113 million loan to founder Philip Falcone and providing illegal special treatment to him and some clients. Last week, Goldman Sachs was reported to have pulled its all of $120 million investment out of the $9 billion fund; Blackstone Group and the New York State Common Retirement Fund also said to be pulling their investments. 


Doug Mohney is a contributing editor for TMCnet and a 20-year veteran of the ICT space. To read more of his articles, please visit columnist page.

Edited by Jaclyn Allard



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