In a move that could see the US gain another mobile broadband provider, satellite operator Globalstar has sought permission from the Federal Communications Commission to provide terrestrial services over its satellite spectrum.
Filed with regulatory authorities this week, the operator’s petition describes a long-term plan to provide LTE services using all of its frequencies.
More immediately, the company wants permission to provide WiFi-like services using its 2.4GHz airwaves.
It argues that existing WiFi networks are becoming congested and believes the use of 2.4GHz spectrum would effectively increase available WiFi capacity in the US by as much as 33%.
“Given that our spectrum is adjacent to existing WiFi frequencies, we are uniquely suited to help alleviate the current congestion being experienced over WiFi channels,” said Jay Monroe, chairman and chief executive officer of Globalstar (Covington, USA).
“In addition to meeting our core MSS [mobile satellite services] mission and driving value for the enterprise through subscriber growth and the introduction of new products and applications, we can and should be permitted to use our terrestrial spectrum more intensively to meet the ever-increasing demands of customers,” he said.
Many devices currently in use would be able to connect to the 2.4GHz system with only a minor software upgrade, says the company.
“This petition would place an additional 22MHz into the national broadband inventory near term while leveraging existing handset technology and infrastructure,” said L Barbee Ponder IV, Globalstar’s general counsel and vice president of regulatory affairs.
Globalstar is hoping to sway the FCC by promising to provide 20,000 free access points at schools, community colleges and hospitals throughout the country. It will also provide mobile satellite services free of charge to areas struck by natural or man-made disasters if its scheme gets the regulatory go-ahead.
The timing of the petition is interesting: Dish Network (Meridian, USA), a satellite TV company, is currently awaiting an FCC decision on whether it can also use satellite spectrum to provide terrestrial services.
Most commentators seem to think Dish will secure regulatory approval and Globalstar appears to hope the FCC’s blessing of its own plan will then be a matter of course.
Even so, LightSquared was forced to file for bankruptcy protection earlier this year when the FCC refused to let it provide LTE services over satellite spectrum on the grounds that its signals could interfere with GPS services.
Globalstar has quickly rejected any comparisons with LightSquared, but its spectrum also lies close to GPS bands.
With revenues of just $72.8 million in 2011, Globalstar would probably have to partner with another company on the construction of an LTE network.