Sprint partner LightSquared presses for FCC ruling on network roll-out

LightSquared Inc., facing a year-end deadline with partner Sprint Nextel Corp., is pressing federal officials to rule against critics who say the company’s proposed wireless-Internet network will interfere with Global Positioning Systems.

In a filing late Tuesday, LightSquared said the Federal Communications Commission should find that it has no obligation to pay for a fix for any GPS interference and that its opponents can no longer stand in the way of the company’s commercial launch next year.

The filing comes less than two weeks before a Sprint deadline that LightSquared receive FCC clearance to operate its proposed national network as a condition of a 15-year fourth-generation spectrum and equipment-sharing venture. LightSquared has said the deal with Overland Park-based Sprint will help it save $13 billion through the end of this decade. The deal would also generate billions for Sprint as it continues to upgrade its high-speed network.

LightSquared has been buffeted by criticism from lawmakers, the Defense Department, and manufacturers who say the company’s airwaves can jam GPS signals. Olathe-based Garmin is among the companies concerned about LightSquared’s technology.

The Reston, Va., company hopes to build out a 4G network to cover 260 million potential customers by 2016and compete with carriers such as Verizon and Clearwire Corp — another Sprint partner — in selling spectrum wholesale.

Jeff Carlisle, LightSquared’s executive vice president for regulatory affairs, said he hoped the petition would compel the FCC to expedite its process, though he conceded it was unlikely there would be any ruling before early 2012.

“While we ask the FCC to confirm our legal rights, LightSquared remains fully committed to cooperate with all parties – the GPS industry, GPS users, and the federal government – to ensure that LightSquared’s network is deployed in a way that is compatible with GPS users,” said Carlisle. “LightSquared has always recognized the critical importance of the GPS system, and we firmly believe that GPS devices can peacefully co-exist adjacent to our network.”

Sprint spokesman Bill White said the Dec. 31 deadline for getting FCC clearance still stood, though the carrier had the option to extend it.

LightSquared earlier this year agreed to use only part of its airwaves and lower the power of its cell towers to help mitigate GPS interference.