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NSN wins $7bn LTE contract from new US player

Forthcoming US 4G wholesale network LightSquared said Tuesday it has tapped Nokia Siemens Networks in a deal worth $7bn to deploy infrastructure for its LTE/satellite combination network.

Backed by Harbinger Capital Partners and incorporating US satellite operator SkyTerra Communications, LightSquared aims to offer wireless broadband capacity to retailers, wireline and wireless service providers, cable operators, device manufacturers, web players, content providers, and pretty much anyone who wants it. LightSquared will offer terrestrial-only, satellite-only, or integrated satellite-terrestrial coverage, will not offer a retail service and will not compete with its customers.

Sanjiv Ahuja, the onetime head of France Teleom’s Orange mobile operation, is in place as chairman and CEO of LightSquared, bringing a wealth of experience with him. Although it is not clear whether he will be balancing this role with his emerging markets startup, Augere.

Ahuja will be joined by Frank Boulben, head of strategy, marketing, and partner development and previously group commercial director at Vodafone and group chief marketing officer at Orange; Drew Caplan, formerly SkyTerra’s chief network officer, will continue to serve in this capacity for LightSquared.

“We’re not only delivering exciting opportunities for manufacturers and retailers, but also real change for consumers, dealers, and service providers. We’re providing everyone, including underserved communities, with a fast, reliable experience regardless of where they are located in the United States,” said Ahuja. “LightSquared will help solve some of the communications and public safety issues we’ve seen during recent national disasters, as well as provide connectivity in rural markets where there is currently no reliable wireless communication. By using satellite coverage, we can ensure constant connectivity, even if the terrestrial network is not available.”

LightSquared controls 59Mhz of nationwide spectrum in the US ‘L band’ (1-2GHz), and while FCC rules allow the company to use ground-based LTE infrastructure to complement its satellite offerings, those same rules dictate that devices on the network must be able to support both satellite and LTE connectivity, which may pose a few problems in sourcing devices.

The company is anticipating commercial launch in the second half of 2011 and will cover at least 100 million Americans by December 31, 2012; 145 million by the end of 2013; and 288 million by the end of 2015. In addition to the $2.9bn of assets already contributed by Harbinger, LightSquared this week announced additional debt and equity financing of up to $1.75bn.

Under the eight year agreement with NSN, the vendor will provide network design, equipment manufacturing and installation, and network operations and maintenance. The nationwide LightSquared network, consisting of approximately 40,000 cellular base stations, will cover 92 per cent of the US population by 2015.

Want to find out more about all the latest LTE news happening in North America?  Attend our LTE North America large-scale conference and exhibition taking place in Dallas, Texas on 10-11 November 2010.  For more information please visit: www.lteconference.com/northamerica

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