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LightSquared momentum continues with Cellular South deal


Despite the looming regulatory threat to its future long-term evolution (LTE) network deployment, LightSquared continues to sign up wholesale customers and partners, today adding Cellular South to its growing roster. As in its deal with Open Range Communications, LightSquared’s tie-up with Cellular South will involve both a network sharing and a wholesale component.

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Cellular South is already building its own LTE network in its southern U.S. CDMA footprint focused primarily in Mississippi, targeting the end of 2011 for launch (Unfiltered: Cellular South launching LTE with Samsung). So in addition to Cellular South buying wholesale access to LightSquared’s nationwide terrestrial network and satellite coverage, LightSquared will use Cellular South’s to augment its footprint in rural areas (Briefing Room: LightSquared, Cellular South announce bilateral roaming agreement).

Cellular South has 700 MHz spectrum, which would allow it to run its mobile broadband service in the same band as Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ, NYSE:VOD), though its new partnership with LightSquared may change that. LightSquared is deploying its 40,000 base station network in the satellite L-band, meaning any roaming capable device Cellular South has will need to target those frequencies. In LightSquared’s partnership with Open Range, though, LightSquared is supplying the spectrum while Open Range builds the network (Unfiltered: Open Range does 180 on network plans). Cellular South and LightSquared weren’t clear on how the partnership would work, but Cellular South may now have the option of launching LTE in two bands or just LightSquared’s spectrum solely. The latter could save it a lot of hassle in procuring devices.

LightSquared has been on a wholesale tear, in recent weeks signing contracts with Best Buy (NYSE:BBY) (CP: LightSquared lands Best Buy) and Leap Wireless (NASDAQ:LEAP) (CP: Leap taps LightSquared for roaming and backup) as well as claiming to have several more unpublicized deals, including one with a major device operator looking to shed the yoke of the retail operators. But even as LightSquared executes its business plan to the tee, funding issues and questions about network interference with GPS receivers loom over those future prospects (CP: The LightSquared Enigma).

The task force set up by LightSquared and the GPS industry to investigate those interference issues released their second progress report this week, revealing that the group had settled on testing parameters and methodology and had even begun some of its testing in seven possible interference scenarios (aviation instrumentation and carrier assisted GPS, among others). The test results and the technical working group’s conclusions and recommendations won’t be released until the final report on June 15.


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