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Brit sat biz Inmarsat owed $56m by ailing LightSquared

Hard-up mobile broadband dreamers can't use sold spectrum

The smart choice: opportunity from uncertainty

Failed cellular disrupter LightSquared owes $56.25m (£35.46m) to UK operation Inmarsat for 10MHz of radio spectrum that the FCC won't let LS use.

LightSquared's box-o-frogs plan was to use its satellite spectrum for a ground-based mobile broadband network, but when it started knocking out local GPS gear it was forced to shuffle down the dial. To do that LightSquared licensed 10MHz of spectrum from Inmarsat, but despite relocating and lowering the transmission power, the FCC won't let LightSquared launch, so LightSquared has no need for the spectrum it's now been accused of failing to pay for.

"This notice triggers a period of 60 calendar days during which LightSquared can remedy the payment," says Inmarsat, explaining that if LightSquared can't come up with the cash it triggers various default clauses "including pre-agreed spectrum arrangements and termination of certain LightSquared rights under the Cooperation Agreement".

LightSquared reckons it's still waiting for Inmarsat to "fulfill certain obligations important to the deployment of LightSquared’s 4G-LTE integrated terrestrial and satellite network and protection of their respective customers", and says that it still considers Inmarsat to be an important partner.

But it's hard to see what would motivate LightSquared to pay up when the FCC won't let them deploy a ground-based network in the band. LightSquared is, apparently, trying to get some spectrum off the US military before its funds run out and the whole plan disintegrates.

Inmarsat admits that it probably won't see any more money from LightSquared - the Brit biz "cannot provide any assurance that these discussions will result in any further payments being received from LightSquared" - but reckons that won't impact its normal operations, so one imagines the default wasn't entirely unexpected.

As for LightSquared, it probably has a month to put a plan together before its customers and partners cut and run. But despite that it would be wrong to dismiss it quite yet, as the company has pulled rabbits from hats in the past. ®

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