Heads up Microkia watchers, LightSquared gets $586M for new LTE network

LightSquared, the company building a hybrid LTE and Mobile Satellite wireless network that will be sold as wholesale bandwidth to the major U.S. networks, announced Tuesday that it has closed a $586 million loan led by Swiss investment bank UBS AG and JP Morgan. Over the last seven months, the company has raised more than $2 billion in debt and equity to build its ambitious new network.

For as huge an undertaking as building an entirely new network is, LightSquared is moving along at a steady clip. In August, the company's wireless licenses consolidated to allow MSS/ATC to operate in the L-band, then in November, it put its first satellite in orbit, and just under a month ago, it got FCC clearance to sell network bandwidth to other carriers. The money it has secured from UBS and JP Morgan will be put toward "general corporate purposes" and construction of its terrestrial LTE network.

"We're excited about our prospects of bringing the next generation of mobile broadband to millions of Americans, fulfilling the promise of the National Broadband Plan using exclusively private money," Sanjiv Ahuja, CEO of LightSquared said in a statement today. "Our investors share our belief that now is the time for a wholesale model to succeed, as we will bring desperately-needed 4G capacity to businesses, consumers, government and public safety users through a wide variety of retail partners which will sell services based on our integrated terrestrial and satellite network. We are deploying the most advanced network while offering service at a lower price, because as a pure wholesaler, we will not have retail overhead."

This announcement is quite relevant to the recent partnership between Microsoft and Nokia because the first equipment providers for LightSquared's new LTE network include Qualcomm (for its L-Band supportive baseband chips,) Nokia (for consumer hardware,) and Nokia-Siemens Networks (for network infrastructure.)

Thanks to this partnership, the newly-paired Microsoft and Nokia have a unique opportunity to circulate their consumer hardware among LightSquared's wholesale partners. While LightSquared in October said Nokia will provide branded, "data-centric" products (i.e. modems) for LightSquared's partners when the network launches, there is still ample time to develop smartphones tightly woven into NSN's network architecture.

The company has already signed wholesale deals with two major U.S. wireless operators, but has not yet announced who they are. It is clear, however, that every network operator could benefit from the additional bandwidth they will be able to purchase from LightSquared, so many more partnerships are expected. The company says it is currently in talks with three other network operators.

For IT professionals and engineers looking to get a jump on the swelling tide of LTE networks, Nokia-Siemens announced its LTE solution certification program will begin in the second quarter of 2011. The joint venture is building out LTE networks in 31 countries (including LightSquared in the USA,) and it hopes to have 4,500 certified professionals by the end of this year.

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