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Another nationwide Long Term Evolution network has received a vote of confidence from the Federal Communications Commission, which approved a move by Harbinger Capital Partners to gain control of SkyTerra. In FCC filings, Harbinger said it plans to build out a combination terrestrial-satellite LTE network that consumers could utilize with cell phone-sized handsets for mobile communications.
According to Harbinger's business model, the company plans to launch two next-generation SkyTerra satellites to provide coverage for use with Harbinger's existing terrestrial facilities.
The Harbinger plan calls for the use of 36,000 terrestrial base stations, a terrestrial cell site and backhaul network, and networks of other terrestrial carriers. While other attempts to create satellite/terrestrial networks have called for the use of large brick-sized handsets, the Harbinger proposal plans to have cell phone-sized user handsets and other consumer devices.
"By 2015, the company expects to serve more than 40 million connected consumer terrestrial devices on a wholesale basis," Harbinger's business plan states. "The company intends to be a wholesale-only, data-only network operator, providing a competitively priced 4G option, including network, operations, and spectrum." Harbinger foresees using a retail distribution alliance of PC manufacturers, national retailers, CE manufacturers, and service providers without wireless capacity.
Harbinger predicted the terrestrial network will cover at least 260 million U.S. inhabitants by 2015 -- comparable to the coverage expected to be provided by other nationwide terrestrial carriers. Verizon Wireless and MetroPCS are scheduled to deploy LTE networks later this year, followed by AT&T next year.
Harbinger, which is led by CEO Philip Falcone, noted that its LTE devices and chipsets are already in development. Mobile modems are slated for commercial availability in the second half of 2010 with handsets to follow in late 2011. Denver and Phoenix have been chosen as trial markets for the service.
A successful deployment of the Harbinger network could provide badly needed spectrum for carriers and consumers who are increasingly getting squeezed as the number of spectrum-eating smartphones increases.
Hailing the approval of Harbinger's acquisition of SkyTerra assets, Falcone said, "This announcement by the FCC sets the stage for the launch of our business plan whose objective is nothing less than to revolutionize how Americans use and experience wireless communications in the 21st century."