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As LightSquared Fades, What of Sprint?

As you likely know, the NTIA’s Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information, Lawrence E. Strickling  gave LightSquared a big, fat, wet Valentine’s day kiss when he wrote to FCC Chairman Genachowski saying, “…we conclude that LightSquared’s proposed mobile broadband network will impact GPS services and that there is no practical way to mitigate the potential interference at this time.”

You can read the full letter, which goes downhill from the quote above, by clicking on this link:  NTIA Letter to FCC Regarding LightSquared: Feb. 14, 2012.

While everyone else is talking about LightSquared, I’m wondering about the impact of the likely LightSquared disappearance from the arena on Sprint.  Just last June, Sprint and LightSquared announced that they had entered into a 15-year agreement for Sprint to promote LightSquared as its 4G solution (hey, does anyone remember a company called ClearWire who was promoted by Sprint to be its 4G solution?  I’m just ask’n…).

Under the Sprint deal, LightSquared was to pay $9 billion dollars and give Sprint another $4.5 billion in credits for LTE and satellite services.  Shortly thereafter, Sprint kicked the Network Vision project into high speed.

Side note 1: Network Vision, for those of you who have not yet seen the vision, ahem, is Sprint’s project to replace its BTS cabinets that do one thing on one band with shiny new BTS cabinets that can be easily adapted to provide multiple services on multiple bands at the same time.   That’s actually a smart thing from an engineering perspective, but it sure looks like Sprint was betting on LightSquared’s payments to fund a good portion of Network Vision.

Side note 2: The Network Vision project is connected with Sprint’s recently-announced plan to shutter 30,000-ish of its current leases as the new multiband BTS cabinets go in.  Shuttering that many site leases should save Sprint something on the order of $400 million per year, and make cell site landlords wary of entering into new leases that don’t have early termination fees (huh? Your lease doesn’t?  Too bad; so sad.)

So, what’s next for Sprint?  Certainly it has wisely given up on WiMax as a real, long term 4G solution.  It looks like everyone agrees that LTE is the real answer, so the sinking of LightSquared’s ship is hardly likely to re-float ClearWire’s boat in Sprint’s eyes (or any other sets of eyes for that matter).  Since Sprint recently missed out on the “Buy Your Next Band From The Cable TV Guys” deals, its even farther down the spectrum rabbit hole.  Sprint needs frequencies, and it needs them last week.

This brings me full-circle back to an earlier blog post, from last September, when I mused on the idea that Sprint and T-Mobile would make a mighty fine look’n couple, and I even worked up a possible wedding announcement:

See: SprinT-Mobile?

T-Mobile has kept a nice dowry of cash (and better, spectrum) from when the DOJ forced AT&T to leave T-Mobile at the alter.  So like Sprint, T-Mobile has a pressing need to get married.  If not to each other, then to others, but marriages are on the horizon.

See you at the wedding(s).  I’ll be at the bar.

Jonathan

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