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LightSquared illuminates 'partners' on US 4G roll out

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Wholesale 4G network LightSquared is planning to start deployment in the middle of the USA and then spread to the coasts, according to documents sent out to potential partners.

The plan, which was leaked to Bloomberg, involves connecting up Dallas, Chicago and Minneapolis next year, with New York, San Francisco and 18 other cities to get coverage from a total of 13,000 base stations deployed during 2012. Quite who is going to use all that bandwidth is the subject of the ongoing negotiations.

LightSquared is using ground component spectrum - radio frequencies officially reserved for satellite phones, with in-fill provided by the ground component. LightSquared has, in collusion with the FCC, turned that around and intends to provide in-fill using satellite, and coverage using LTE to traditional base stations.

But it still needs a lot of base stations, and a customer or two, which is why the company is sending out detailed deployment plans. T-Mobile is the obvious customer, being the only US operator without its own LTE plans; but there's no reason for T-Mobile to leap in first.

CEO Sanjiv Ahuja (formerly of Orange) told Bloomberg that the company is about to sign up 10 customers in the consumer electronics space, and that negotiations have "progressed on a much faster past than we had originally planned for", though we shouldn't expect any announcements for a few months while the contracts are thrashed out.

LightSquared is hoping to see the service outside the traditional bandwidth-consuming industries - engaging with manufacturers of TVs and games consoles in the hope that they'll see the advantage of embedding their own connectivity.

But regardless of when we see publicly-announced customers, LightSquared will start building its network in December, and if it builds it (it hopes) customers will come. ®

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