Harbinger Wireless Venture Gets Extension On Interference Report

Jun 17 2011 | 3:56am ET

Faced with mounting criticism and concern, Harbinger Capital Management's wireless broadband venture has asked for more time to present its side of the story.

With several new tests performed by opponents of LightSquared's plan to create a nationwide wireless network using frequencies generally restricted to satellite users showing serious interference issues, the company asked the Federal Communications Commission for a two-week extension on a report due earlier this week. The regulator acquiesced, giving LightSquared until July 1.

"Based on preliminary test results, LightSquared determined that additional testing, beyond what had been planned initially, including alternative frequency plans to support its network roll-out, was necessary to permit a proper evaluation," LightSquared's Jeffrey Carlisle wrote to the FCC. "That testing has been performed, and it has set back the timetable, particularly in some sub-teams in which data is still being processed and analyzed."

Recent testing has shown that the LightSquared network could seriously interfere with global positioning systems, including air-traffic systems and General Motors' OnStar service. Despite these issues, on Wednesday, a group of 30+ parties—including Alianza Inc., Highland Capital Partners, Mesirow Financial Holdings and Vonage—filed an open letter to the FCC in support of LightSquared.

“The GPS-LightSquared debate has been sadly positioned as a ‘win-lose’ dilemma, suggesting a winner-take-all outcome - that in order for one technology to exist, the other must lose.  That is unfortunate and shortsighted,” stated the letter. “While it is likely there will be interference issues that will need to be solved, the parties and the FCC must have the room to develop a ‘win-win’ solution for America. “

Harbinger has invested a substantial chunk of its assets—according to some reports, the overwhelming majority of its assets—in LightSquared. Earlier this month, the hedge fund told investors it would pay more than half of first-quarter redemptions with in-kind distributions of LightSquared shares, which are illiquid.

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