Harbinger Wireless Company Wins Crucial Waiver

Jan 27 2011 | 11:59am ET

Harbinger Capital Partners' ambitious satellite broadband venture got a big boost yesterday, winning approval for its plan to offer cellular phone service.

The Federal Communications Commission granted a waiver, requested by LightSquared, in November, to allow the venture to use its current wireless licenses to offer terrestrial services, including cell phone service. FCC rules generally require cell phones using those airwaves to support satellite calls.

The regulator granted the venture in spite of concerns, expressed by the U.S. departments of Commerce, Defense, Homeland Security and Transportation, that LightSquared's plans would present "significant interference concerns." LightSquared has pledged to resolve those.

"This is a promising opportunity to promote mobile broadband," the FCC said. "Having an extra player in the mobile broadband field increases competition and provides customers with more choices."

"LightSquared's network will provide a robust, open-access network that will permit reliable and affordable service to customers across the country in every market segment," the company said.

Harbinger has invested some 40% of its assets in the ambitious plan, which is set to begin trials in four cities this year.

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