LightSquared Poised to Build Nationwide 4G Network

Can a wholesale provider of 4G wireless services be the catalyst for a new era of competition and innovation in the U.S. wireless marketplace? LightSquared, a new telecom company formed by a hedge-fund billionaire around the guts of a satellite-communications concern, thinks so.

Though the company faces a long list of challenges, LightSquared owns a large, precious swath of licensed wireless spectrum and has the backing of billionaire hedge-fund investor Philip Falcone. These advantages may gives LightSquared enough credibility to attract the partners and investors it will need to succeed.

LightSquared hopes to make its money by selling fast wireless broadband to large established providers who will then resell it to consumers or to local or new providers (such as camera manufacturers, large retailers, and e-reader makers) that are looking for a way to add Internet access to their products without having to build a network to provide it.

The potential payoff for U.S. consumers is a number of new wireless devices and services from providers that are free to focus on innovation and marketing while LightSquared takes care of the network.

Right now, LightSquared faces the daunting task of raising billions of dollars to continue financing its network buildout. It must also assure potential customers that it will successfully do so.The company is increasing its visibility at forums such as the recent CTIA Wireless conference in Orlando, Florida, where CEO Sanjiv Ahuja delivered a splashy keynote address to announce LightSquared's first marquee-name deal--a tentative plan for to resell LightSquared's network services when they become available.

Rumors of a possible tower-sharing deal with Sprint Nextel indicate that LightSquared may soon join forces with some much-needed collaborators. A potential public offering of stock could provide an infusion of cash as it strives to begin providing live wireless service before the end of 2011.