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Lightsquared cries dyslexic Havoc, unleashes 'gods of law'

These Godzilla lawyers will crumple the FCC like paper cups!

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LightSquared has hired two top litigators in what appears to be a prelude to a all out war over the FCC's decision to block deployment of its 4G network.

The litigators concerned have considerable form. Bloomberg quotes Washington lawyer Lawrence Kaplan describing the recruits as "one of the best teams available", and one of them in particular as "a deity", but even such fine legal minds will have a hard time making FCC change its mind in the face of equally-well-funded opposition.

The FCC's decision was based on studies which showed LightSquared's network could interfere with GPS equipment, as it was intended to operate in the neighbouring frequency. LightSquared tried leasing another band from Imnmarsat, and dialled down the power considerably, but GPS interference was still observed in the last round of testing.

LightSquared disputes those results, which were occluded by the leaking of an early draft based on the dialled-up power levels. That draft showed lots of interference, and LightSquared has demanded a public enquiry into how the results got leaked from a government testing house to a Bloomberg reporter, claiming that it was a deliberate ploy by the GPS industry to obfuscate the argument.

LightSquared's second argument is that since it isn't leaking signals into the GPS band it shouldn't be responsible. GPS receivers are often very sensitive, and the most sensitive pick up signals from neighbouring bands including those LightSquared wants to use, but LightSquared doesn't see why that should be its problem.

And LightSquared has invested billions of dollars on the assumption that the interference issue could be resolved.

The box-of-frogs plan was to use frequencies normally reserved for satellite communications to deploy a national, terrestrial, LTE network. Terrestrial transmitters are permitted under the satellite use to fill in shadows and penetrate buildings, but LightSquared needs FCC approval to deploy 40,000 of them and it still had to launch a satellite to maintain the illusion of being a satellite-phone operator as well as providing service while the network was being built.

That bird is still up there: SkyTerra 1 has a 22 meter reflector, which is bloody huge by anyone's standards and enables it to deliver 400Kb/sec to a handset on the ground, which must be a delight to the handful of people who have a LightSquared satellite phone.

LightSquared was always intended to be a wholesale deal, and signed up a load of customers who wanted to resell its LTE service. The business model calls for 40 million connected devices, but Leap Wireless, who's Cricket service was an early win for LightSquared, has just announced an alternative deal with Clearwire, following the even-more-insane-than-LightSquared FreedomPop who signed up with Clearwire last month.

Sprint will almost certainly withdraw from its location-sharing agreement in the next few days, leaving LightSquared without a network, or usable spectrum, or much in the way of customers, so litigation may be the only business left. ®

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