A group of lawmakers have sent FCC chairman Julius Genachowski a letter this week asking him to look into whether a spectrum swap with the Department of Defense would allow LightSquared to develop its LTE network, a buildout that had been nixed over GPS interference concerns. While not impossible, a swap would certainly be unprecedented — the DoD would have to give up some of its spectrum holdings elsewhere and take over LightSquared's portion of the L-band. The lawmakers — representatives Jim Moran (D-VA), Maurice Hinchey (D-NY), Steve Rothman (D-NJ), Rodney Alexander (R-LA), and Ander Crenshaw (R-FL) — said this in their letter:
"In the absence of a viable technical solution that would allow LightSquared to use its own licensed spectrum, we believe a spectrum swap is the most resourceful and efficient way to quickly expand broadband access nationwide,"
This aligns well with the FCC's goals of extending broadband coverage to the last mile, and the government's $5 billion pledge to make those goals a reality represents at least one potential source of income for LightSquared to lean on.
Having a potential source of income in an environment where getting regulatory approval to launch a mobile network can take years is naturally a point of interest for LightSquared's investors. Despite being mired in $1.7 billion of debt, LightSquared's senior lenders met on Tuesday to draft a proposal to give the company a 90-day lifeline in return for liens on the company's existing assets according to NASDAQ's website. LightSquared would also have to hand over at least partial control of its budgeting and spending practices to its financiers, which could provide an element of stability given the tumultuous circumstances that the wireless company finds itself in currently.
For a company with a future as murky as LightSquared's, only one thing is certain: its options are quickly evaporating. Still, the concept of another nationwide wireless data network independent of existing carriers is an alluring and potentially lucrative one, and there are those who are willing take on significant financial risk to pursue it.