Just yesterday, we saw the Samsung Galaxy Nexus visit the FCC with support for Sprint’s upcoming LTE network, where it will be a launch device. We’ve been hearing Sprint talk about plans for transitioning from WiMAX to LTE for some time now, and the company LightSquared has often been a central part of what it’s shared. Though LightSquared holds frequency rights that had the potential to help deliver LTE connectivity, technical problems with interference have long marred the company’s efforts. Sprint and LightSquared have been trying to work those issues out and still do business together, but Sprint’s finally thrown in the towel, announcing that it will be going ahead and developing its LTE network without LightSquared.
The technical problems LightSquared had to deal with that it wanted to use high-power broadcasts on frequencies adjacent to the low-power signals from GPS satellites that threatened to interfere with GPS reception quickly turned into a mess that was just as political as technical, with plenty of accusations being thrown around of GPS manufacturers lazily building devices with insufficient filtering. Ultimately, LightSquared couldn’t come up with a way to deliver its planned data services while avoiding this interference.
Sprint was planning to construct LightSquared’s network for the company, and then use it to offer its own customers LTE service. It reserved the option to back out of the deal, knowing about these GPS issues, and now it’s finally done so, returning some $65M to LightSquared which had already been delivered as payment.
What you should be concerned with is what this change of plans means for Sprint’s LTE launch. According to the carrier, everything’s still on-track, and this hiccup shouldn’t affect the arrival of LTE sometime later this year.