Sharp to Make LightSquared Devices; Wholesale Sign-ups Continued GPS Questions

OSAKA, JAPAN and RESTON, VA.: Sharp has agreed to develop devices that will work on LightSquared’s proposed wireless broadband network, while wholesale resellers continue to sign up despite regulator uncertainty.

LightSquared has selected Sharp as its first manufacturing partner for smartphones and tablets compatible with its 4G-LTE network. LightSquared said the goal of the agreement is “incorporate an extensive selection of unique device components, such as Sharp’s advanced LCD panel and camera module, for LightSquared’s 4G-LTE network partners including carriers, retailers and others.”

LightSquared will showcase devices during CTIA Enterprise & Applications, Oct. 11-13, in San Diego, Calif.

LightSquared has yet to secure federal approval for its proposed network, which has been shown to interfere with global positioning systems. Initially granted fast-track conditional approval from the Federal Communications Commission, LightSquared’s proposed operations and the FCC’s actions are now under fire on Capitol Hill. LightSquared continues to create business relationships in the meantime.

Its proposed network--the first to use both terrestrial and satellite transmission--is intended as a wholesale-only play, and customers keep lining up. LightSquared last week signed No. 17--YourTel America, which provides telecom services in Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Oklahoma, Maine, Rhode Island and Washington. YourTel is an approved Eligible Telecommunications Provider, designated to provide services for low-income households. LightSquared noted that broadband penetration was low in the much of the YourTel service area. In Missouri, for example, 43 percent of households are said to be without broadband access. The figure is 45 percent for Oklahoma.

The Obama Administration vigorously is pushing for the creation of a nationwide wireless broadband access, saying it will create millions of jobs. The fed’s effort to execute its own National Broadband Plan is meeting resistance from broadcasters whose spectrum it proposes to reclaim. LightSquared, on the other hand, already had ample spectrum and merely needed a waiver from the FCC to use it for wireless broadband. The FCC granted it on the condition that the network not interfere with GPS operations. The company now says it has filtering technology that will resolve the interference problem, but skeptics remain.

LightSquared’s pitched battle for federal approval exploded last month with a U.S. Air Force general saying he was pressured by the White House to modify his Congressional testimony in favor of LightSquared. The general said it would take at least a decade and billions of dollars to affect the filter fix. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) has since inquired who would pay for the fix. He’s given the FCC until Oct. 13 to respond.

~ Deborah D. McAdams, Television Broadcast