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7/20/2010
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Nokia Siemens Will Build LightSquared National LTE Network

Harbinger Capital Partners named Nokia Siemens Networks, in a $7 billion deal, to build and operate the nationwide 4G LTE combination terrestrial-satellite network it calls LightSquared.

Harbinger Capital Partners' ambitious plan to develop a nationwide 4G LTE combination terrestrial-satellite network came into sharper focus Tuesday when the venture -- dubbed LightSquared -- named Nokia Siemens Networks to build and operate the network in a $7 billion deal.

Driven by Harbinger's manager Philip Falcone the effort has been pieced together over the last several months. Financing for the mammoth project remains a challenge, although Harbinger announced $1.75 billion in new debt and equity financing over and above the $2.9 billion of assets already contributed by the hedge fund. Harbinger also controls 59 Mhz of valuable spectrum.

Harbinger announced a star-studded and seasoned team of managers led by former France Telecom executives including Sanjiv Ahuja who was chief executive of France Telecom's Orange subsidiary.

"LightSquared will be a disruptive force in the U.S. wireless landscape by democratizing wireless broadband services," Ahuja said in a release. "We're providing everyone, including underserved communities, with a fast, reliable experience regardless of where they are located in the United States."

LightSquared utilizes a wholesale business model that will present no conflict of interest with its customers who will be able to use the integrated wireless broadband and satellite network on a satellite-only, terrestrial-only or integrated satellite-terrestrial service for their end users. LightSquared plans a terrestrial network of 40,000 cellular base stations that will cover 92% of the U.S. population by 2015. The company is projecting that it will produce more than 100,000 direct and indirect private sector jobs over the next five years.

Harbinger's plan has been hailed by the FCC as an example of new private sector investment and innovation that is being promoted by the Commission under the leadership of chairman Julius Genachowski.

Earlier this year Harbinger purchased satellite firm SkyTerra, which plans to launch next-generation SkyTerra satellites. According to regulatory filings Harbinger made earlier this year, the project envisions utilizing a retail distribution alliance of PC manufacturers, national retailers, CE manufacturers and service providers to help market its solutions.

The earlier filings noted that the company has been developing LTE devices and chipsets. Modems could be available as early as the second half of 2010 with handsets to follow in late 2011. Denver and Phoenix have been chosen as test regions for the service.

Ahuja said the LightSquared network could be used for public safety purposes and also for difficult-to-reach rural areas. "By using satellite coverage," he said "we can ensure constant connectivity, even if the terrestrial network is not available."

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